Olive Kitteridge: A Novel in Stories – Elizabeth Strout

Olive is not a nice person. She’s a big woman both physically and psychologically. Overwhelming one may say. She has a gentle and kind husband and a troubled son and she towers over both of them.
She’s the teacher you were afraid of in primary school. The harsh one that once she had an opinion about someone rarely changed it. She is the nosy neighbour that you cannot get rid of.
She is a suffering mother of a grown-up son who cannot forgive her until she understands but she cannot understand what she did wrong. Olive is not a one-dimensional character.

We see Olive in various stages of her life through a series of stories (it does what is says on the tin). Only in few, she is the main character. More often she is shown in context and interaction with another character, sometimes her role is minor (but remember Olive is too big to be overlooked), in some stories she doesn’t show up at all.

In various stories in various contexts she shows unexpected tenderness and understanding. It seems that Olive opens more to strangers as if her responsibility for her family distances her from them and also makes her a tyrant hating the chains she herself created.

I read this book a few weeks ago, but Olive is still in my head. She’s not a character to like, but she is one to relate to. She tries and she fails, sometimes she’s kind and sometimes she’s vicious. Often she is very down to earth and pure common sense, but sometimes she gets carried away by irrational feelings.

This book is not only about Olive. For me, through the various stories, it told about how… unsatisfactory… not sure if it’s a good word but disappointing is even worse…maybe underwhelming will do…life generally is. How we all try to be happy and we spend most of our life trying rather than being happy. How reality check gets everyone. And when it all gets sad and self-pitying Olive comes with her big self and undeniable common sense, sometimes even with a touch of tenderness.
I really liked this book when I finished it and I like it even more now a few weeks later when I don’t remember all the details anymore but by taking a step back from individual characters I see more of Olive.

Quotes from Olive Kitteridge

I guess now I’ll have to watch the series. Have you seen it? Is it any good?

Photo by Violetta Kaszubowska

6 thoughts on “Olive Kitteridge: A Novel in Stories – Elizabeth Strout

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  4. Pingback: Quotes from Olive Kitteridge: A Novel in Stories – Elizabeth Strout – bookskeptic.com

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