Saturday, 8 January 2011

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

Olive Kitteridge is a 2008 novel which won its author Elizabeth Strout the pulitzer prize.

The novel is essentially a series of short stories, all of which could stand alone in their own right. The added twist is that Olive Kitteridge appears in all the stories ether as the main character or is only mentioned in passing. The effect of all these components when put together makes for not only a compelling character in Olive but also a profile of some of the residents of the small town she lives in.

Olive herself is human. She most certainly has her bad points including a very difficult relationship with her son, but she is also able to touch other people lives in a sometimes subtle or obtruce way. Olive's emotions while not always understandable are realisticly portrayed and powerful.The overall theme for me though is 'getting old sucks'.

This is not a novel packed full of plot and I found it far more depressing than uplifting, but each chapter made me pause and think about it long after I had finished it.

Verdict 4/5

Posted by Jess


  1. I absolutely loved this book and the way Olive appears almost as a refrain in each section. Found myself waiting for her appearance, waiting for another small revelation as to the roots of her bitterness.

  2. Pulitzer Prize books are usually well worth a read. I think the format of this book sounds interesting, with Olive appearing in all of the short stories.

    I do think "The Beauty Myth" has dated, but it some ways it's more timely than ever as I think things are more extreme than they were in 1990 when Wolf wrote it - with eating disorders, photoshopping etc.

  3. This is another "prize winning" book which I couldn't finish. I honestly don't know what the criteria is - some Pulitzer books I cannot put down and some are just horrible (in my opinion).

  4. I've been meaning to read Olive Kitteridge for a few years now and even have a copy waiting for me on the shelf. It's a very interesting premise, to look at the same character through a series of short stories, and I hope I'll get to it soon!

  5. Overall, this wasn't my favorite read. I loved some of the stories, but a few non-Olive ones near the end dragged a bit for me. I did enjoy her writing and hope to read more of her books this year.

  6. I thought the audio version of this one was good.

  7. I feel I must read this book! Your review made me think of The Boat by Nam Le, although I'm sure they're very different books.

  8. Frances - it was clever how only a small mention of her in a few of the stories still counted towards the readers overall view of her personality.

    Sam - when you put it like that I have to agree :)

    Man of la Books - I find that, I really didn't like the Michael Chabons the Amazing Adventrues of...etc for example but liked this one. I do like Pulitzer prize winners because they are a mix even if I don't like some of them.

    Erin - this one was on my TBR shelf for AGES before I got around to reading it. Wait till your in the mood for something slightly depressing though!

    Carrie - I found it didn't drag for me but then I think I liked some of the more non-Olive stories more than the Olive ones. The one I didn't like as much was the hospital one.

    Diane - I can imagine that the format would would well for a audio book. Glad the actor gave it justice.

    Lucia - I haven't heard of the one you mentioned but I am sure toher books have done something similar maybe?

  9. Olive was such a hard character to like. I enjoyed some of the sections, but others frustrated me. She seemed so oblivious to how her actions affected the people around her.

  10. Pausing and thinking are the outcome I look for in a good read. I loved Olive Kitteridge when I read it last year. Very dense writing, you really have to pay attention.
    thanks for sharing

  11. Avid Reader - she kinnda of reminded me of various friends mothers because of that really, I dunno the author could have gone down the route of 'sweet of lady looking back on her life' but she didn't she made her at points quite unlikeable and I thought it made her more human because of it.

    I can understand why sections frustrated you though, she was that sort of person.

    Martine - I read I thnk a chapter a day as I did have to pause after each one, very well done overall I thought.

  12. When reading this book I thought, I'm not so sure I like it or Olive. When I finished it, I decided that yes I did. Not quite what I was expecting, but i'm glad I read it. The short story concept was fascinating. We might be surprised to see how each of us are intertwined in the lives of others.

  13. This was one of my favorite reads of the year in 2008. I don't expect to be uplifted by fiction, though it's certainly nice when it happens. For me, any book that produces an emotional reaction is a well written book. Olive Kitteridge became more-or-less real for my be the end. She was someone I felt for, though I often felt angered by her.

    I think that's a major accomplishment for a novel.