Book Report: Oh, William!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Another Elizabeth Strout book is now under my belt. I started it a while ago, then a few other things pushed their way into the queue. I was also savoring it. I do love to read the words of the fictional Lucy Barton, and that’s what all of Oh, William! is.

I love the white tulips on the cover (which are a part of the book)

Elizabeth Strout could make Lucy Barton walk across the room to go to the toilet and I’d find it poetic and striking. That’s just how Lucy’s thought processes come across to me. Even though Lucy doesn’t stray from her theme that you can really never know what’s going on in anyone else’s mind, it’s great to see her come to that conclusion over and over again, especially when it comes to her first husband, William.

Lucy has always felt like an outsider from the rest of the world, thanks to have been brought up in an isolated setting with no media or other outside influences besides school. William was, in her view, a safe haven. The plot, such as it is, revolves around Lucy slowly realizing he actually never was that.

The contrast between William and Lucy’s second husband, David, could not be stronger. David was warm, loving, and comfortable, while William was one big, scary (but fascinating) mystery to Lucy. I had so smile as I realized that Lucy just could never shake William out of her system.

William had a glamorous mother who it turned out, was not from glamorous roots at all…much like Lucy. The other subplot had to do with this woman, Catherine, who abandoned her first child…much like Lucy felt she had abandoned her daughters (but really hadn’t).

Enough about the plot. You read these books more for the way the plot presents itself and the language Strout uses to express the ideas in Lucy’s head. It’s just so, so wonderful.

Now. After I finished the book, I began wondering why I feel a kinship with Lucy and how she relates to the men in her life. It then dawned on me. I’ve had my own William and David. I literally worshipped my high school boyfriend, but in the end I had to get away to be myself. And he was much like William. And his mother was exactly like Catherine (from poverty in Mississippi to a glamorous adulthood).

But it was how Lucy felt about men that struck me. She viewed love like I did much of my life, and I never realized anyone else was like that. I always thought I was very odd. But, certain circumstances where love is sort of withheld from you can lead you to not trust yourself to really love people, so you sabotage relationships. Huh. I’ve done that. Repeatedly.

Stopped now.

Gosh, I’m glad Lucy is seeing things clearly, now that she’s my age. I hope I am, too. And if this review doesn’t make sense, well, it’s because I don’t make sense, either. Do any of us? I’ll ask Lucy in the next book.

Author: Sue Ann (Suna) Kendall

The person behind The Hermits' Rest blog and many others. I'm a certified Texas Master Naturalist and love the nature of Milam County. I manage technical writers in Austin, help with Hearts Homes and Hands, a personal assistance service, in Cameron, and serve on three nonprofit boards. You may know me from La Leche League, knitting, iNaturalist, or Facebook. I'm interested in ALL of you!

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