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I just finished reading a really great book for my bookclub and so thought I would share my thoughts on it. Olive Kitteridge (2008) is a novel by American author Elizabeth Strout. It actually won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2009 but I found it very hard to get hold of. My local library only had one copy and most people I talk to about it have never heard of it! It's a shame because it really is a very good read and makes you think about life and how we all approach it.
The book flows like one novel but is actually a collection of 13 connected short stories about a woman named Olive and her immediate family and friends in the town of Crosby in coastal Maine. At first this was not apparent to me because Olive weaves her way in and out of each of the stories so it seems like you are reading just about her life with other people thrown in but then you realise a few stories in that each one is its own stand alone story in its own right. In some stories a lot of it is about Olive but in other stories there might only be one line about her but even that shirt little line adds to Olive's story and tells us something about her life.
I found it amazing how the author managed to create a character that we love, hate, feel sorry for, misunderstand, understand all in one book but she really achieved that. Olive Kitteridge at first I think is shown to us in black and white, a spiteful, not very nice woman. It's clear, she's just not very nice but then bit by bit her layers are peeled back and we see so many different layers to her and really start to understand why she is like that, even at one point later in the book during a visit to her son, showing us that she is a scared little girl with no clue about the world around her.
There are some great characters in this book. Each story really covers characters of all ages from teenagers to men and women in their final days and shows how the different ages all live together in the small coastal town. For me the character of Henry Kitteridge, Olive's long suffering husband is a good one. You really wonder how he puts up with her for so long and then their situation vastly shifts and you think he is really quite lucky to have her! Olive and Henry's son, Christopher is also another good character. You can just imagine what kind of boy he was from the initial stories which goes some way to explaining how he ends up where he is in later life and the relationship he has with his mother. I think for me this was the best ongoing storyline of the whole book.
The book was not hard to read, I found it quite a page turner and one that, like I've said above really makes you contemplate life.
It is ISBN 978-1400062089 and is 288 pages long.