Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Olive Kitteridge

I just finished reading Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout, and it was one of my favorite reads in recent years. I read Strout's debut novel, Amy and Isabelle, years ago, and found it breathtaking.

Olive Kitteridge is a novel in stories, mostly centered around the oafish and oblivious Olive, a schoolteacher and pharmacist's wife, but also the folks who live in her small Maine town. I love character-driven stories and this book is all about character. Each short story has its own story arc, and is beautiful independently.

But through the collection of stories, the reader follows Olive wading through life with oblivion, anger, and sadness. Yet it's her brief moments of self-awareness -- she is very observant, but about everyone else and rarely herself -- that are startling in their simplicity.

Strout won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for this beautiful book. I think it's a must-read for writers who want to study the art of characterization.


  1. How funny ... I just ordered Olive Kitteridge this morning. After I told a friend how the novel was compiled of related stories, I felt guilty that I hadn't actually read it myself.

    Thanks for your review. I'm looking forward to learning something.

  2. What a coincidence! I think you will really love this book, Linda. And it's a great perspective on how to approach multiple points of view.

  3. I'm anxious to read it. I've been toying with the idea of a connected story novel, so I'm looking forward to seeing how she did it.

  4. I was excited to read your review because I loved this book, too! As soon as I finished "Olive," I read "Abide With Me," which was just a beautiful, beautiful book. I'd read "Amy and Isabelle" when it was first published and now I'm kind of sad that there are no more Strout novels left to read. I'm hoping that she'll release a collection of her short stories. That would be great. Like your blog!

  5. I've had this book on my nightstand for a while now. The problem is that I like to read on the subway and it seems a bit too intense for my 15-20 min. intervals on the train. I just finished a book this morning, so you've inspired me to pick this up and stick with it.