Sunday, 21 November 2021

Elizabeth Strout, Oh William!

I have read most of Elizabeth Strout, most of Jane Gardam, some Elizabeth Taylor, these intricate, domestic women in their recessive worlds, their talking tone, their willingness to tell and their ability to avoid telling. Sometimes this is just what I need.

I read Oh William! by Elizabeth Strout this week. Every few pages there's a long moment during which Lucy Barton, Elizabeth Strout's familiar, talks to us from the page — 'Oh, I cannot say any more right now'. Or:

But I have always remembered that. At the time I thought, Well, at least he is being honest.

But we had these surprises and disappointments with each other, is what I mean.

Social understanding, intimacy real or imagined—what does it matter—social observation, the pools and sharps of our history with each other, Elizabeth Strout is insistent. I don't often want to be this clearly in any world, invented or otherwise. I don't want to be in our culture of domesticity and lineage. Of the blood. The platitudes. The parentage. The losses.

Oh, to panic!

Elizabeth Strout has the art of slowly ravelling our lives in full view of each other.  

I could read Jane Gardam next, for the English version. Though Elizabeth Strout is English enough, Puritan. Gardam and Strout are a fine pair. They could sell groceries or mend shoes. 

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