Category Archives: bookstore management

THE MONDAY BOOK: Oh William by Elizabeth Strout

We apologize for the lack of blog posts last week. In a world filling up with words resulting from tragic events, it seemed best not to add to them. We’re back now.

This week’s Monday book comes from the irrepressible Janelle Bailey. She would love to hear comments on this blog, as she is sharing one of her favorites this week.

Oh, Elizabeth! So dependable an author, you are. Few write in such a way that they can be so completely trusted, with each and every book they produce, to transparently share, somehow and so valuably the critical stuff that is inside of a soul. I find that every one of your characters help readers to see clearly another and to gain from better understanding what makes them tick; coinciding, they may see glimpses into themselves and do a little therapy by reflecting. Your “stuff” is always just so believable, your characters dependable narrators and well developed.

In this book the soul unwrapped and revealed most fully is title character William’s ex-wife, who is the writer Lucy Barton. Devoted readers of all books Strout may remember her from My Name is Lucy Barton. In the addressing of her inner soul and guts, Elizabeth, you bring us readers to cringe and struggle and smile and tear up and more, as we go through all of this with Lucy.

Strout’s stream of consciousness storytelling takes us back into Lucy Barton’s past and all the sense she has tried to make–or avoid–of it these many years since her…well, maybe she’s been trying to escape it, really.

This book is also about William, for sure, as it shares things about his life and past, and his mother Catherine Cole’s as well, most especially presenting the relationship she and Lucy had as mother-in-law and daughter-in-law when Lucy and William were married and how that influenced things after their divorce as well.

While it’s not necessary to have read, let alone recently, Strout’s earlier book about Lucy—for sufficient reference is made here to the pertinent elements of her character and past–I do think reading or re-reading that book first would enhance one’s richer experience in reading this one as well as provide the reader opportunity to spend more time with these characters (and also with Strout’s high quality writing). Her books are not long, and I am always a wee bit sad when they end…simply because they are over. I have read every single one of them.

You have to go there to know there: you have to read Strout to see how truly she represents everywoman and the struggle to now simply be, given all one has seen and been and lived and felt. It’s not easy to be any of us…but Strout makes it all…okay. Survivable. Strengthening. While I feel one gains the very most by reading every Strout book to know all of her characters and know them well, a new-to-Strout reader can certainly, instead, pick up just this one (or another) and be quite satisfied by THAT story in a stand-alone experience.

Can’t wait for you to read this one if you have not already. Then let me know what you think!

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Filed under book reviews, bookstore management, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, out of things to read, reading

A Carrying Streamlet – –

Jack jumps in to rescue the Monday book post – –

The Folk River – Fraser Bruce

I should start by saying this is yet another book to which I had some input.

It started with a lengthy series of discussions instigated by Fraser Bruce on FaceBook where he challenged some of the accepted ‘myths’ surrounding the Scottish folk scene of the late 1950s and early 1960s. This led him to do some serious research, including interviewing those folk still around from these days, as well as previous publications – books and magazines.

He then set out on the mammoth task of pulling it all together and then enlisting our mutual friend Pete Heywood to proof, type set and insert lots of pictures.

Most other books covering this subject that I’ve seen tend to be written by observers rather than practitioners so this one is different and wherever Bruce’s experiences overlap mine I can attest that they are accurate. I can be reasonably sure, then, that where he overlaps with other folks’ experiences they are likely accurate as well.

Being married to a writer and published author I have some idea of the work that has gone into this and commend Bruce for taking on this formidable task.

Of course it will be of most interest to the diminishing band of like-minded folk who were around then, but I hope, like Bruce, that it might add to the existing small number of more academic publications about this fascinating time.

Finally – even if I hadn’t been involved I would still recommend this as an excellent window to a time that both mirrored and connected with the similar American folk revival.


Filed under book reviews, bookstore management, folklore and ethnography, publishing, reading, Scotland, Wendy Welch, writing