Nothing much happens in the book. It would be impossible to prepare an outline of the plot (as opposed, say, to The Making of Americans). The action is purely interior: a great deal is noticed, digested, absorbed, compared. The result can be read simply as an account of being in the countryside, or more complexly, as an investigation into the interlocking nature of things and into the ways that language can be used for description. Lucy Church Amiably is finally, in Miss Stein's own words, "A Novel of Romantic beauty and nature and which Looks Like an Engraving."
There is no summarizing or explaining the writings of Gertrude Stein. With the exception of her fledgling efforts like Three Lives or her funny, successful memoir, The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, her fictions are without conventional plot, setting, or character. They are intellectual flowers, each sentence growing or receding from the one before it, repeating its main points with subtle, telling changes. In Lucy Church Amiably, first published in Paris in 1930 and long out of print, Stein describes the landscape and pastoral life of central France (while writing, she was staying near a small village named Lucy) in and through her character Lucy Church: "Gradually remembering a lake. Gradually. Remembering. A lake. In gradually remembering a lake by the shore of the lake where they were sitting." Yet Stein is not opaque or purely musical: she always provides solid details in unexpected places, specializing, as the critic Fred Dupee put it, in "the mingling of apparent conviction with transparent nonsense." She is a central figure in the modernist movement, but her relentless pleasure in her quirky, handmade idiom can repel the unwary reader. Although it is a delight to have this reprint, a brief introduction would have been useful for the uninitiated. Those interested in Stein should also turn to her Selected Writings, or, for a painless entrée to her work, begin with The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas. --Regina Marler