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on 4 May 2017
This is Elizabeth Strout's debut novel and I found it difficult to put down as it captured the feeling of the characters so precisely and made me care what happened to them. I also found the ending very satisfying and uplifting.
I highly recommend it and although I admire "My Name is Lucy Barton " I found this book the more enjoyable.
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on 18 September 2017
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.
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on 18 January 2018
Isabelle and Amy are a mother and teenage daughter, living together in a single parent household in the 1970s in the fictional Maine town of Shirley Falls. It could be any rural town in New England: conservative and provincial in outlook and a far cry from the sophisticated big city of Boston.

Although not particularly close, these two eat, sleep and rub along together in Isabelle’s modest house. When 16-year-old Amy discovers her newly developed sexual power and attracts the attention of an older man, she becomes increasingly withdrawn and taciturn. The way in which Amy is outed causes Isabelle to be overcome with guilt and shame.

Isabelle’s only chance to escape the family home is by going to work in the office of a local mill, in a job she despises. When Isabelle was Amy’s age, she planned to be someone – a teacher and finds herself now as an adult suffering from thwarted ambition. As a substitute for the education that was denied her, she tries but gives up on literary classics as an aid to self-improvement.

Her close-knit community of co-workers frustrates her at first, as they fill their days with gossip. But each of these women hides a secret, that they are at first reluctant to talk about. One is battling cancer, the other an errant husband. And Isabelle is fixated with her married boss.

Isabelle and Amy find it increasingly difficult living together under the same small roof. As their relationship disintegrates into dysfunction, the secret Isabelle has been hiding all these years is revealed.

The claustrophobic story world is beautifully realised, particularly the way these two characters co-exist in resentful proximity, and now have nothing to say to each other. Both socially awkward, they suffer the agonies of their embarrassment in the full glare of the public eye in their judgmental neighbourhood.

In her debut novel, Elizabeth Strout has created one of the most powerful mother and daughter relationship stories I have read in a long time.
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on 8 September 2017
I loved this book. Wonderful, thoughtful writing and strong, moving characters. Amy embarks on a first love affair with her maths teacher while her mother, Isabelle is infatuated with her boss. Both of them struggle with their closeness to each other and the secrets that push them apart and it is their story that drives the book while around them, many other stories unfold, richly peopling the town of Shirley Falls through the long, hot summer. I feel lucky to have found this novel and will be reading more by Elizabeth Strout.
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on 12 July 2017
Elizabeth Strout is a wonderful writer. It is almost as if she higlights the life of people we know; who live unobstrusively, just around the corner and gives the reader some idea of their hidden lives.
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on 15 August 2017
a beautifully written story about a teenage girl and her repressed mother. it took a while to get going but its not a book to be rushed. i normally like fast paced crime thrillers and this is the complete opposite.. i found reading this book that i really cared about the two main characters particularly isabelle.. this is a book i would recommend
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on 25 August 2017
This is the first Elizabeth Strout novel I have read and I couldn't leave it down. In fact when I finished it I moved straight on to a second. It is character driven and explores relationships between mother and daughter, work colleagues, school friends, and teacher pupil situations. Characters are well developed and their interactions provide a very enjoyable read.
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on 22 July 2017
Another fantastic read from Elizabeth Strout. A gentle but deep hitting story of mothers and daughters, secrets and lies and learning to recover from life's trauma. Highly recommended.
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on 30 July 2017
This was well written and I enjoyed the psychological study of Isabelle and Amy. All characters were very well drawn. If someone is looking for something with a faster pace this book is not for them.
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on 23 July 2017
I gave up on Olive Kitbridge so wasn't sure whether to try this one but - I loved it. I took a long time (by my standards) to read it as I didn't want it to finish. A beautifully written book about mothers and daughters and neighbours.
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