Ah, Lucy Barton, what an enigma you are. This book is the first of two and I will tell you that you can read them out of order because I did. In fact, the sequel filled me with questions about Lucy so I had to read this one, too!
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I will have to say I am so glad I read the sequel first. As the story of Lucy unfolds the characters and events from the sequel are brought up.
Lucy’s point of view intertwined with the story told by the other characters makes this set amazing.
Lucy Barton, as the book opens is in the hospital where she will remain for weeks. Her mother has arrived to stay with her. Her husband and two small children are unable to be there all the time. Knowing that Lucy was abused and neglected from the sequel to this book made me wonder why her mother’s visit seemed so important. Why would her husband ask her mother to come?
Lucy intermittingly remembers things from her childhood, and occasionally lapses into thinking that it was not so bad. But, it was.
One example I can share without revealing too much. In the sequel, there was a chapter about the school janitor watching over Lucy. She stayed after school late every single day. A reason was never really given for this. Now, in this book, we learn this:
When my great-uncle died, we moved into the house and we had hot water and a flush toilet, though in the winter the house was very cold. Always, I have hated being cold.
Read between the lines a little and you can see why Lucy stayed after school. How heart-breaking is this!
The chapters of this book tell the story of Lucy and her mother visiting and in each chapter, she remembers something from long ago. Raised in Amgash (with the many characters that are part of the sequel to this book) Lucy is one of the few that left the town. She has stayed away for reasons of her own that will learn more about.
She meanders quite a bit in this story but by the end, I knew this: Lucy is like all of us. We want our mothers to care for us, love us, and nurture us. We want to be told we are loved. We want a happy family. Lucy did not have this and the trauma she endured as a child shaped her as an adult. She may have escaped Amgash, but she cannot break free from this trauma.
This book was heart-breaking, meaningful, and beautifully written. It is short and the little sections (chapters) are sometimes only half a page. Since I read the book and its sequel in backward order I can say that would be alright for you as well. I don’t think the order really matters. Both books together reveal the horrible effect of poverty and abuse on adults for their entire lives.
Four stars- the book is mesmerizing, but a little sad, and does get off track in a few places. Try one of them and decide if you need to read the other.
My rating system: 5 stars means perfection- the book was written well, held my attention, and I did not want it to end. 4 stars- the book was really good, but I had questions or concerns about parts of it. This might include the way it ended. 3 stars- the book was okay, but I just didn’t like it much. 2 stars- I skimmed most of it. 1 star- I could not finish it.