On March 14, member Anita M. presented on the works of Elizabeth Strout. Anita’s career as a psychologist likely explains her love for this author and her works. Anita found herself curious about Elizabeth Strout’s characters. They seemed like neighbours that one gets to know over the years, sharing everyday things and significant events in their lives.
Like Joan Didion, at a young age, Ms. Strout’s mother gave her scribblers in which to write down her observations of people. For Strout (and Didion) this resulted in an exceptional career in literature. Strout continues to write daily, by hand, arranging words that “fall on her ears the right way.”
Elizabeth Strout obtained degrees in English and Law, worked at a New York college, raised a family, and continued to write. Her observations of people came to fruition when at age 42 she published her first novel: Amy & Isabelle (1998). Like Strout’s subsequent books, it is situated in a fictional small town in Maine, similar to the ones she grew up in. The book became a bestseller and later a movie.
The author’s third book, Olive Kitteridge (2008,) won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize and has been turned into an HBO series. This book is an interconnected series of short stories depicting life’s journey. In 2014, Ms. Strout moved to a more conventional novel form with The Burgess Boys, which has also become a movie.
Anita’s favorite book is Oh William!, which takes place on a road trip that the protagonist Lucy takes with her first (now ex) husband William, a year after her second husband dies.
Anita shared many excerpts from the author’s books highlighting her writing style and characterizations. She shared that the author creates scenes in which she sees herself in each character. Major or minor characters, such as Olive Kitteridge, may crop up in later books, and these characters evolve with time. However, Anita noted that each book can be read on its own. Overall, Ms. Strout deals with the complexities of life in a way that is not sentimental or judgmental, and which doesn’t offer solutions.
As in her previous presentations to the club, Anita showed her own natural ease, grace and depth of understanding, while covering a large body of work.
Janet H. (and Shawna M.)
Join us on March 21, 2023 when member Helle K. will present on the works of Canadian author Mary Lawson.