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Review: Olive Kitteridge (Elizabeth Strout) and Give Away

Title: Olive Kitteridge
Author: Elizabeth Strout
Genre: Adult
Rating: 4 out of 5
Challenges: Take Another Chance (#4: Pulitzer Prize); Rainbow (O); and my book group
FTC Disclosure: I bought this book with my own money
Summary (from the back of the book): AT times stern, at other times patient, at time perceptive, at other times in sad denial, Olive Kitteridge, a retired schoolteacher, deplores the changes in her little town of Crosby, Maine, and in  the world at large, but she doesn't always recognize the changes in those around her: a lounge musician haunted by a pst romance; a former student who has lost the will to live; Olive's own adult child, who feels tyrannized by her irrational sensitivities; and her husband, Henry, who finds his loyalty to his marriage both a blessing and a curse.

As the townspeople grapple with their problems, mild and dire, Olive is brought to a deeper understanding of herself and her life--sometimes painfully, but always with ruthless honesty.

Review: Ok, like everyone else, I don't really like Olive, the person/character. But, like everyone else, that's ok. She is ornery, nasty, unhappy, and sometimes mean, but she makes the book interesting. Unlike everyone else, I didn't love this book. I liked it a lot and enjoyed reading it, but it isn't one of my top books.

Each time a chapter or story ended, I wanted more of those characters. I guess I am just someone who wants a longer version of each of these stories. However, I did like the way that Olive was the connecting piece among the characters. I thought that was interesting and clever: showing us Olive through 13 different sets of people.

Here's what I did like about the book:

  • The characters are believable! I felt as if I really knew them very quickly and had a good idea of what their town was like. I feel like if I went there I would see the people Strout wrote about and know (and I mean know) them, perhaps even understand them. I also liked Olive a lot more by the end, and especially because of the last chapter (I won't give anything away). We finally see a slightly softer side and I had hopes that she might find happiness. I also really liked Henry; there was just something safe and secure about him. And, he truly cared about Olive.
  • The setting. I've been to Maine and could picture this small town along a rocky coast. As a teacher one really gets to know so many of a small town's occupants and Olive had that connection through her past career.
  • The writing is fluid, easy, interesting, and full of...stuff. It really is good.
The copy I have of this book also had a "Conversation with Elizabeth Strout and Olive Kitteridge" in the back. I really liked this a lot! It was very clever how Olive was included in the interview; it gave me even more insight into the character, which I liked.

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rolodexter said...

I'm sorry. I know this is supposed to be a great collection of short stories, as it's recognized well, but the shorts are boring. I think I might have just picked this one up at the wrong time. I'm going through this thing, where I don't really like fiction in the third person. I'm finding the third person narrative to be irritating, corny, trite. The leaves did this, and the sun did this to the building. It's trite. It's exhausted. We all don't have very much time these days, and save for the awful reason to just stop and smell the shitty roses, I really am finding that fiction has to say something; come out with it already. I'm impatient. I'll try it again in a month.

Helen's Book Blog said...

Rolodexter--too bad you disliked this book so much! While I didn't love it the way many people did/do, I enjoyed reading most of it.