August 6, 2009

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

HUSBAND: "It sounds British. Is she British?"
ME: "No, this book is set in Maine."
HUSBAND: "Yeah, but I bet she's British."
ME: "No honey....she's not British."

And thus, I had to go through the rest of the time it took me to read this book with my husband pronouncing the title with a terrible British accent: "Owhleeve Keetredge!" But, no....the title character is not British.

Unique in its narration, this novel is structured as a collection of 13 short stories, or vignettes, that are all connected somehow to one central character, Olive. Some focus on her former students, others on her husband, neighbors, and occasionally herself. There are stories of love, loss, scandal, marriage (and divorce), happy endings and sad ones. Every new story offered another facet of Olive's character and helped paint a more complete picture of her life and the community in which she lives. The novel moves through a great deal of time and introduces us to a number of characters, but it is the quirky, heavy-set, blunt to a fault Olive that keeps us turning the pages. My favorite moment was in "Little Bursts" when Olive is alone in her son's bedroom on his wedding day and she steals one of her new daughter-in-law's shoes, a bra, and writes with a marker on one of her sweaters just to remind her that she too doesn't know everything and might be losing her mind. Nothing like a mother-in-law to put you in your place!

Perhaps not one that I will re-read, but I would certainly recommend it highly. It's a fast read and I found it to be eloquently written and very enjoyable. Oh yeah, and it won the Pulitzer Prize in 2008, so you know it's something special. Be prepared to be on a waiting list at the library for this one, however! 4 Stars!


  1. Olive was my grandma's name. She hated her name actually, and went by her middle, Dolline. And she wasn't British. :P Olive was actually a really popular upper-crusty name just after the turn of the Century, especially in New England. Just some pointless trivia you didn't ask for. :P

  2. Well, there you have it then! Definitely NOT British. :-)

  3. Nice review. Your husband sounds like a character. I still haven't read this one. Someday I will pick it up and read it. I like the idea of short stories comprosong a novel.


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