Saturday, 3 September 2016

Amy and Isabelle

  
Someone has been clever with the design of these Elizabeth Strout novels.  Plain cream covers with red and black text and a red spine.  Very simple and effective.  While Olive Kitteridge and My Name is Lucy Barton are very accomplished novels my favourite is still Amy and Isabelle.

Teenage Amy has abundant hair and a sensitive nature which attract the attention of her charismatic maths teacher who quotes the poetry of Edna St Vincent Millay while beginning a slow seduction of Amy which takes place over the course of a long New England winter and spring. 

Isabelle, unaware that her daughter is being dazzled by her maths teacher, has her own troubles.  Raising Amy alone and forced to take a job at the Mill which she feels is beneath her she yearns to fit in with the middle-class wives of Oyster Point and is unable to see the solid worth of Fat Bev and the other women who work at the Mill.   

Set in Shirley Falls, Maine, the river which divides the town marks both geographic and social divisions.  The yearnings and tensions of the inhabitants of Shirley Falls come to a head under a burning white sky during the hottest summer the town has ever known.

This novel has likeable central characters in Amy, Isabelle and Fat Bev who will have you routing for them.  (I never could route for Olive Kitteridge)  There is a side story involving Amy's vulnerable best friend Stacy (who can't construct a sentence without the f word) and a recurring motif of a missing girl.  Elizabeth Strout is always good on landscape and the river and weather brilliantly reflect the events of the novel.  A great late summer read.

12 comments:

Audrey said...

I haven't read her! I did watch a little of Olive Kittredge on TV and it wasn't my cup of tea. But I'll look for Amy and Isabelle; thanks for the recommendation.

mary said...

I loved Olive Kitteridge, one of my favourite characters of all time! Wouldn't want to live next door to her!

Nadia A said...

I love the cover of the Lucy Barton book you showed us. The US one isn't as nice. Its my favorite Strout book - then again its the only one of her books that I've read. I absolutely loved it and definitely want to read more of her work. I'm glad you posted about Amy and Isabelle - it sounds terrific! I'm definitely ordering a copy of that one and the Olive Kitteridge book, too. Cheers!

Natalie~Coffee and a Book Chick said...

I am such a fan of the simple and clean covers. These are beautiful. Minimal works for me most of the time, and I've always had it on my list to dive into Olive Kittredge, and pretty much any Elizabeth Strout, to be honest. I really hate how I've delayed on that!

JoAnn said...

Elizabeth Strout is one of my favorite authors! I discovered her ages ago when Random House sent me a copy of Amy and Isabelle - one of my first ARCs. I wasn't even bogging back then. Your post reminded me how much I loved the book. It's still on my shelf... just know I'll reread it one day.

Anbolyn said...

I've only recently discovered Elizabeth Strout for myself and have read her recent works -- now I need to explore her backlist. I love the sound of Amy and Isabelle.
BTW, I've read the new Ann Patchett and it is fantastic.

Sunday Taylor said...


Good to know. And I love those covers!

Penny O'Neill said...

I hope to read "Amy and Isabelle" soon. We read "Olive Kitteredge" for our book discussion group several years ago and had a lively discussion over it.

bookertalk.com said...

I didnt readOlive Kittredge (perversely I never read anything that has a lot of visibility) but got in early with Elizabeth Strout and loved it so now I think I should go back to her earlier work after all

Arti said...

I saw the made for TV movie Olive Kitteridge with Frances McDormand and liked it a lot. With Lucy Barton I listened to the audiobook. I'm afraid to say I'm not very impressed with it. What do you think of its chance of winning the Booker Prize?

Vintage Reading said...

Audrey, Strout can be a little dark - you have to be in the right mood to read her!

Mary, no, she was equally terrifying and heroic.

Nadia, usually the US covers are much better than UK (I think the UK version of Anne Tyler's A Spool of Blue Thread had the worst cover EVER!). I think you would enjoy A&I.

Natalie, yes I prefer minimal, too. Don't mind a splash of colour but that's about it. It shouldn't matter but it does!

JoAnn, love that comment - yes I think A&I is actually her finest book.

Anbolyn, yes you must read Amy & Isabelle. Just read the Patchett, I liked it but didn't love it, can't quite put my finger on why.

Sunday, nothing like a good cover!

Penny, I think Amy and Isabelle is more uplifting than OK which can be a little dark. I must introduce it to my book group.

bookertalk, yes you must read A&I, hope you enjoy it.

Aarti, I believe Lucy Barton didn't make the short list which was a shame. I have to say I only fully appreciated it on a second read.

Kat said...

Strout is so good and I love those covers. She was snubbed by the National Book Award this year, in that she wasn't mentioned. I haven't read Amy and Isabelle! I'll look for it.