Amy and Isabelle by Elizabeth Strout
Elizabeth Strout is a new writer for me and gosh am I glad I found her! It is rare, these days, to find true, quality, literary fiction - books in which the strength of the story is as important as the words used to tell it. It is what I aspire to myself.
Strout writes with painterly prose, each image and scene beautifully depicted as in oils on canvas. Her characters are forensically rendered, each sigh nuanced and loaded with significance. Their voices are authentic - so human - frail, proud, wounded. This story is not fast-paced although it has its moments of excitement and tension. It is slow, limpid and delicious, rich and satisfying. A joy to read.
I particularly enjoyed the scenes which took place in the lunch room of the workplace, where the women’s wax-paper packed lunches and frequent trips to the vending machine, their conversations, rivalries and friendships were all so vivid it was like watching a play enacted, or even a fly-on-the-wall documentary. The frankness of women about bodily functions, gynaecology and family problems was perfectly depicted, along with the pride of women, the things they hold back, their little triumphs over one another. Likewise the troubled relationship between the eponymous characters Isabelle and Amy, mother and daughter, always a relationship fraught with delight and difficulty.