By Elizabeth Strout
A dazzling portrait of one woman’s lifeTweet
Everybody knows everybody when you live in a small town. This is a book told through the intermingling stories of the folks who make up a small town in Maine. Each of their histories is linked by the title character, Olive Kitteridge. Olive is a very strange, overpowering and highly opinionated woman. She effects each of the individual stories in different ways--some very positively and very negatively but never does she ever simple brush through their lives.
I wanted to like this book a lot but I did not like Olive at all and therefore had trouble with it. She is rude, abrasive and mean as a person. It was a fairly quick read so I stuck with it until the end which made me more tolerant of her but still not liking her.
For some reason that I don't understand I would, however, recommend you read it. The author has a good way with words and you may find yourself liking it more than I did.
Olive Kitteridge lives in a small coastal town in Maine, USA. She is a retired schoolteacher and is married to Henry. This book provides an insight into Olive’s life as we meet her family, friends and neighbours.
There is a lot to like about this book. It is really a collection of short stories, all featuring Olive in either a starring role or a cameo appearance. The stories are gentle, interesting and enjoyable to read, but are certainly not of the “thrill a minute” variety. The style of writing is very typical of all the books I have read by this author and she is exceptionally good at creating a community feel to a small town and introducing us to various members of the community by telling a story in which they feature. The stories do not have to be dramatic, they just give a snapshot of the people, warts and all.
Overall however, I was quite disappointed in this book as I wasn’t nearly as captivated by it as I had been by Elizabeth Strout’s Lucy Barton series. Having said that, I loved the Lucy Barton books so much that they were a hard act to follow - my expectations for future offerings were very high indeed. Another problem was that I just couldn’t get inside Olive’s head and struggled to formulate an image of her as a fully rounded, complete personality. She was a troubled soul in some ways, probably with a heart of gold hidden away somewhere and a sensitive side which did not often poke its head over the parapet but these aspects of her personality did not come to the fore. Basically, I didn’t particularly like her. She was a fairly prickly individual who really wasn’t a very nice person. This was not helped by the first impression I had of Olive, taken from the opening short story in the book. Olive was not painted in a particularly favourable light and as first impressions do last, they probably influenced my overall view of her as a character. I am guessing that the author did not necessarily intend Olive to be endearing, but for me, as a reader, I would have been more invested in her life (and therefore in the book as a whole), had she been either endearing or a complete, rounded personality who I could relate to in some way. Although I have only given the book three stars, I was finding it impossible not to compare it to the previous Elizabeth Strout books I had read, and I felt it fell short. Had I read it in isolation, I may well have given it 4 stars.
Although I was a little disappointed in this particular Elizabeth Strout book I will certainly continue to read her others. And yes, I would certainly recommend her books to anyone who enjoys a thoughtful, gentle read.
I really wanted to like this book more but found the switching between characters and events disturbed my concentration. Olive Kitteridge does feature throughout but sometimes only as a bit-player. A good book but just not for me.
I found this an interesting read. The chapters being individual stories about the ups and downs of the residents living in a small seaside town in Maine. The link between these stories being Olive Kitteridge who was sometimes only briefly mentioned but was also deeply involved in others. I thought of her as being slightly unhinged with her reactions to certain situations and how she treated people. The description of her being a large lady gave the aura of a larger than life character which I felt was appropriate.
It was all slightly depressing with the sad things that happened along with the inevitability of growing old and the problems and uncertainties that brings, something to make us all ponder over.Having said that there were light moments with a reasonably positive finish.
Each chapter of this book is a story about a different person or household of the same small town. An unusual and clever concept, the reader is left wondering about the different strands that connect them all long after reading.The author has a spare style of writing, and is able to convey so much with so few words. Superb.