Literary Fiction

Oh William! – Elizabeth Strout

12 October 2021
Oh William! Book Cover Oh William!
Elizabeth Strout
Random House

"Strout's iconic heroine Lucy Barton recounts her complex, tender relationship with William, her first husband -- and longtime, on-again-off-again friend and confidante."--


Elizabeth Strout has contributed significantly to my favourites bookshelf with her two unforgettable characters: Olive Kitteridge and Lucy Barton. Both women were crafted from the discerning and expressive observational talent of Elizabeth Strout. Lucy Barton spent her early life in abject poverty, an extreme situation that shaped her personality and life expectations. Throughout her previous books, (“My name is Lucy Barton” and “Anything is Possible”) we watched as this sensitive, doubting, and inconspicuous woman, took courageous steps out of grim poverty to become a writer, a mother and a husband.

“I have always thought that if there was a big corkboard and on that board was a pin for every person who ever lived, there would be no pin for me.”

Oh William! is the third book in the Lucy Barton story where she is sixty-three years old and recently widowed to her second husband David Abramson. David was her soulmate, someone she understood and who understood her. Lucy’s reflection back into her marriage with David is touching with its deep sense of loss and an appreciation of the loving support each provided in coming to terms with trauma, guilt and companionship.

William, of book-title recognition, is Lucy’s first husband and father to their daughters, Chrissy and Becka. He was difficult to reach emotionally and a man who cheated on each of his three wives. While separated by different partners and a broken marriage, Lucy and William somehow remained friends. When William, now seventy-one, discovers complex family issues, he asks Lucy to return to the family home in Maine. The double entendre of a personal journey of discovery, within a travel journey, provides the theme for Lucy and William to explore deep underlying issues, coming to terms with the choices they made or did not, and an appreciation of their value and achievements.

Elizabeth Strout has this ability to connect us to her characters, which I have eagerly done with Olive and Lucy. The slight frustration with this book was that I couldn’t connect as easily with Lucy this time. I don’t know if the magic had slipped or my mood wasn’t right. Nevertheless, if you have followed Lucy Barton, then you can’t let this one go. If you have enjoyed Elizabeth Strout’s introspective characterisations, then this novel provides a further opportunity to soak in the beautifully crafted personalities that live through her work. I would recommend this book, and I want to thank Random House Publishing, Penguin UK, Viking Books and NetGalley for providing me with a free ARC in return for an honest review.

Peter Donnelly

Founder of The Reading Desk, supporting readers, authors, publishers and book industry. Top Reviewer on Amazon, Goodreads, and NetGalley

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