Strout Digs a Little Deeper in 'Lucy Barton'; Elizabeth Strout's New Novel Is Ostensibly about a Young Woman Who Escapes Her Impoverished Childhood to Become a Successful Writer. but Dig beneath the Surface of "My Name Is Lucy Barton" (Random House, $26), and There Are Important Issues the Pulitzer Prize-Winning Author of "Olive Kitteridge" Is Exploring. [Derived Headline]

By Behe, Rege | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, December 3, 2016 | Go to article overview

Strout Digs a Little Deeper in 'Lucy Barton'; Elizabeth Strout's New Novel Is Ostensibly about a Young Woman Who Escapes Her Impoverished Childhood to Become a Successful Writer. but Dig beneath the Surface of "My Name Is Lucy Barton" (Random House, $26), and There Are Important Issues the Pulitzer Prize-Winning Author of "Olive Kitteridge" Is Exploring. [Derived Headline]


Behe, Rege, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


Elizabeth Strout's new novel is ostensibly about a young woman who escapes her impoverished childhood to become a successful writer. But dig beneath the surface of "My Name is Lucy Barton" (Random House, $26), and there are important issues the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of "Olive Kitteridge" is exploring.

"I have always been interested in class in this country," says Strout, who appears Dec. 5 at Carnegie Music Hall in Oakland as a guest of Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures' Ten Evenings. "I actually think all of my books have to do with class, but nobody ever mentions that. Even though I always start with a character -- and I started with Lucy and her mother -- I realized very early on I was going to push the boundaries here and make this girl come from a background that is very poor and very strange."

Strout's own story, if not strange, is a bit unusual. Her first novel, "Isabelle and Amy," was published in 1998. Two books later in 2008, "Olive Kitteredge" brought her the kind of exposure writers devote lifetimes to attaining.

She was no overnight sensation, her success the residue of decades of work. The changes in her life, notably her approach to writing, were negligible.

"I'd been writing for about 40 years," Strout says. "I'd been writing since I was a very small child. I wasn't a child when that book came out, so therefore I was sort of saved from the problem of too much attention. In my mind, I had always been holding myself to such a standard that it never changed. I am aware that I have more readers and my responsibility to my readers is the same as it's always been: to write the best books I possibly can."

"Lucy Barton" certainly adheres to Strout's lofty standards. Much of the book takes place in a hospital room in New York City, where the title character is fighting off an infection after getting her appendix removed. …

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Strout Digs a Little Deeper in 'Lucy Barton'; Elizabeth Strout's New Novel Is Ostensibly about a Young Woman Who Escapes Her Impoverished Childhood to Become a Successful Writer. but Dig beneath the Surface of "My Name Is Lucy Barton" (Random House, $26), and There Are Important Issues the Pulitzer Prize-Winning Author of "Olive Kitteridge" Is Exploring. [Derived Headline]
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