The blogger Heaven Ali has done the improbable: in a one-woman e-mail campaign, she persuaded Bello Pan to reissue Mary Hocking’s out-of-print novels. Next week, Bello will publish Hocking’s first 12 books in e-book form. I have enjoyed four of Hocking’s absorbing novels, which are vaguely reminiscent of the work of Penelope Lively and Elizabeth Jane Howard. (Here is a link to my post about Hocking’s Good Daughters and A Particular Place. )
In the spirit of revival, I am giving away a copy of Mary Hocking’s The Very Dead of Winter. If you would like it, leave a comment or write to me at email@example.com
The giveaway is only open to Americans or Canadians. (Sorry, the postage rates are just too high to send to Europe!)
A BRIEF REVIEW of Elizabeth Strout’s My Name is Lucy Barton
I recently read and loved Pulitzer Prize winner Elizabeth Strout’s My Name is Lucy Barton, a gorgeous, lyrical novel about a complicated mother-daughter relationship. The narrator, Lucy Barton, escaped a harrowing, impoverished childhood through a college education. She reinvented herself as a wife, mother, and writer in New York.
The book opens with Lucy’s reminiscence of a hospitalization many years ago. She teeters on the brink between life and death after a routine appendectomy. “No one could isolate any bacteria or figure out what had gone wrong. No one ever did.”
She looks out the window: Life passes her by outside the hospital.
It was May, and then June, and I remember how I would stand and look out the window at the sidewalk below and watch the young women–my age–in their spring clothes, out on their lunch breaks; I could see their heads moving in conversation, their blouses rippling in the breeze. I thought how when I got out of the hospital I would never again walk down the sidewalk without giving thanks for being one of those people, and for many years I did that–I would remember the view from the hospital window and be glad for the sidewalk I was walking on.
Unexpectedly, Lucy’s mother shows up and stays with her in the hospital for a week. They have had little to do with each other since Lucy left home. They were so poor when she was growing up in a small town in Illinois that they lived in her uncle’s unheated garage. Her parents could not afford a babysitter: they locked her in a truck for hours while they worked on a farm. She screamed for hours when she saw a snake was curled up on the seat.
This reconciliation with her mother is necessary to her recovery from the operation. And she manages to write a novel about this relationship.
Love it, loved it, loved it! This is the first I’ve read by Strout, and I look forward to her other novels.
THREE LITERARY LINKS.
Here are three links to outstanding literary articles. There are so many good ones!
1. Sarah Lyall’s excellent interview with Elizabeth Strout at The New York Times inspired me to read My Name Is Lucy Barton. Lyall begins by quoting the narrator Lucy’s writing teacher, who tells her students not to blur the line between life and fiction and that it’s not her job “to make readers know what’s a narrative voice and not the private view of the author.”
She’s speaking to her own fictional audience, and possibly to us, too. But who knows which voice reflects whose view in the deceptively simple but many-layered world of “Lucy Barton”? On the surface, the story is about a woman trying to recover from an illness and make peace with her mother. But, like all of Ms. Strout’s generous-hearted, deeply insightful novels, it is really about a great deal more: a terribly troubled past, a present that is slowly imploding, the yawning spaces between even the closest of people, our frequent inability to see what’s in front of us.
I loved the book! One of the best I’ve read this year.
2. Bronte fans will be intrigued by Samantha Ellis’s eloquent review at the TLS of Deborah Lutz’s The Brontë Cabinet: Three Lives in Nine Objects, which has been shortlisted for the PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography. In this review, Ellis also writes about Lutz’s book about post-mortem Victoriana, Relics of Death in Victorian Literature and Culture.
3 Michael Dirda entertains us with a review of Jack Lynch’s You Could Look It Up: You Could Look It Up: The Reference Shelf From Ancient Babylon to Wikipedia at The Washington Post.