Good Minds Suggest: Elizabeth Strout's Favorite Character Studies

Posted by Goodreads on January 4, 2016
Elizabeth Strout

Rate this book
Clear rating
With each book, Pulitzer Prize-winner Elizabeth Strout puts us under the spell of indelible characters, imbuing them with emotion that is messy and raw and true. She transported us to the little town of Crosby, Maine, in Oliver Kitteridge, offering us a window into the complex life of one retired schoolteacher. In The Burgess Boys she explored the evolving relationships within a trio of siblings; in Amy and Isabelle, the love and loathing between a mother and daughter. Her new book, My Name Is Lucy Barton, keeps things in the family once again. Lucy is a writer, a mother, and a wife, but she has never quite escaped the shadow of her troubled childhood. When her estranged mother unexpectedly drops into her hospital recovery room, Lucy is confronted with a past—and a present—she had long given up on accepting. Strout shares her favorite books about characters who stay with you even after their stories are over.

Tender Is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Rate this book
Clear rating
"The character of Dick Diver is an all-time favorite of mine. I love his inherent decency, his drunkenness, his desperation. At the end of the book, when he is on a bicycle riding through Upstate New York—I weep every time."


Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
Rate this book
Clear rating
"Patty Berglund is a wonderful character. From the moment we see her walking with that stroller, she is real. And she remains real throughout her troubles—her marriage, her affair, and her striking out on her own."


For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
Rate this book
Clear rating
"The character of Pilar in this book has always stayed with me. She is scary and tough. I was always afraid of her; she really rules the roost in that hideout."


My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
Rate this book
Clear rating
"The brilliant friend referred to, Lila, is an unforgettable character. She is also tough, but I love her. She's amazing in her tenacity and her forthrightness; what a character she is!"


Sons and Lovers by D.H. Lawrence
Rate this book
Clear rating
"The mother in this book has always stayed with me: Her urgency in keeping hold of her sons is rather horrifying (to me). And the way they both try to get free, and cannot escape—well, that is some mother!"





Vote for your own favorites on Listopia: Best Books with Unforgettable Characters



Comments Showing 1-19 of 19 (19 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Richard (new)

Richard I've not read 4 of the books noted here but I have read Freedom recently. I'd agree that Patty is very 'real' throughout the book. So are some of the other characters: Walter, Richard, and Joey (the son of P and W). If the reader is patient and diligent enough to read through Franzen's 550+ pages (it gets a bit slow in spots), he/she gets to experience the lives of all 4 of these characters to a wonderfully deep and fulfilling degree.

I've not heard of/read any of Stout's books yet. I plan to do so now.


message 2: by Leslie (new)

Leslie I believe she is the best author of our time. She has the ability to create very flawed and real characters and make you deeply care about them.


message 3: by Richard (new)

Richard Thanks. I have her on my list of books to read. I will look for one the next time i go to the public library where i get most of my books.


message 4: by Emily (new)

Emily Please correct: Olive Kitteridge, not Oliver. Oh, how I love that book.


message 5: by Mary (last edited Jan 06, 2016 07:05AM) (new)

Mary Stojak Olive Kitteridge is a wonderful book. Don't base your opinion of her on the HBO series! It was good but not anywhere near as good as the book, except for the husband who is after all a bit of a stereotype. That doesn't matter because this book is about Olive. You start out thinking she's a crabby old teacher but as she moves through the stories you discover how complex she is. Amazing character development.


message 6: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth A. I also think that Elizabeth Strout is the best author of our time. I had the privilege of having her as a teacher one weekend at the University of Iowa. She had published Amy and Isabel and was about to publish Abide with Me. She spoke of her writing process, which is daunting and endless. I was given a glimpse into the writing life that exists to bring memorable characters and a craft of writing that stuns the reader. She's amazing.


message 7: by Leslie (new)

Leslie Although I love all of her books, Amy and Isabelle is my favorite. Those are the characters that I sometimes forget were just characters in a novel and not real people.


message 8: by Ellen (new)

Ellen I've loved Elizabeth Strout since Amy and Isabel but Olive Kittredge is my favorite. I thought Frances McDormand did Olive justice in the HBO film. Look forward to her new book!
Ellen


message 9: by Susan (new)

Susan Blankenbecler Ellen wrote: "I've loved Elizabeth Strout since Amy and Isabel but Olive Kittredge is my favorite. I thought Frances McDormand did Olive justice in the HBO film. Look forward to her new book!
Ellen"


I agree, I was 3/4 of the way through the book when I saw Olive on HBO and went back to the book and could hear Francis McDormands voice perfectly as Olive. Brilliant performance!


message 10: by Mary (new)

Mary Stojak I had read the whole book before hand. Francis McDormands performance was good but I invisioned her differently. Ha! I think Francis was perhaps too good looking too!


message 11: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth A. That last scene, when she is lying by the side of the male character who at the moment, I cannot remember his name. Wow, so tender and amazing--the acting, the setting. But of course out of the genius of Strout's mind.


message 12: by Leslie (new)

Leslie Olive Kitteridge is one of my favorite books of all times. I loved that book- Olive was such a well developed character. I read it on my kindle then bought the paperback just to have it on my shelf to peruse it at my leisure. I got HBO Go just so I could watch that mini series and the Ladies No. 1 Detective Agency mini series. After I finished those two mini series, I dropped HBO. I hope they do more wonderful mini series from such good books.


message 13: by Charlene (new)

Charlene D'Avanzo I was lucky enough to hear Elizabeth Strout at a ticket-only presentation for a small group in Bruswick, Maine a few years ago. She was incredibly funny. Someone even asked is she'd done stand-up and she said yes! Olive Kitteridge is way up there on my best-book-I've-read list.


message 14: by Serena (new)

Serena Mikell I really enjoyed "Olive Kitteridge. Strout is still an exceptional writer.

http://helpwritinganessay.com/term-pa...


message 15: by Carol (new)

Carol Scheherazade My brilliant friend I thought referred to Lena. Lila called her that on her wedding day. Am I wrong?


message 16: by Jan (new)

Jan Mine are: Atticus Finch (To Kill A Mockingbird); Jane Eyre, Dinah (The Red Tent), Paul Muad'dib Atreides (Dune); Pip (Great Expectations).


message 17: by Karen (new)

Karen Carol wrote: "My brilliant friend I thought referred to Lena. Lila called her that on her wedding day. Am I wrong?"

The narrator, Elena Greco, also called Lenuccia or Lenu, calls her "brilliant friend," Lila, while others call her Lina.

It was confusing for me at first; it helped to have Elena narrating the story. Third person narrative would probably have resulted in me getting them mixed up.


message 18: by Richard (new)

Richard Leslie wrote: "I believe she is the best author of our time. She has the ability to create very flawed and real characters and make you deeply care about them."

I have since read The Burgess Boys. I found it good but not great. Good enough to want to read some of her other books, however. I hope to do so over the summer when I will have more time for 'recreational' reading. Thanks for encouraging me to read this author!


message 19: by Essayhelp (new)

Essayhelp A great insight to the wonderful books! I wonder how fiction characters leave an impeccable mark on us! Thanks for such an experience!
www.usessayhelp.blogspot.com/


back to top