In spite of all the recent interest in the writings of Gertrude Stein, the novel Lucy Church Amiably has remained one of the least known of her major works. The first edition, published in Paris in 1930, was never widely distributed in the United States, and the American edition (published in 1969) stayed in print for only a short time.
It was written in the summer of 1927, a very special year for avant-garde writing. Many writers composed their most lyrical works in that year—Joyce, for instance, wrote the Anna Livia Plurabelle episode of Finnegans Wake. The pages of such magazines as transition, which reflected the taste of the vanguard, and which had just begun to appear in Paris, show this development.
Lucey itself is a small village in central France, located over the hill from where Miss Stein was staying, and over another hill from where the distinguished French playwright Paul Claudel was staying, which explains the references to Claudel and to hills in the text. It seemed lyrical to Miss Stein to name her character Lucy Church for the church at Lucey. This is the source of many of her names and images—they are puns from French to English.
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.”