callmemadam (callmemadam) wrote,
callmemadam
callmemadam

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Olive Kitteridge, Elizabeth Strout



First off, ignore the silly cover of this book. What were the publishers thinking? It has nothing at all to do with the story. Olive Kitteridge is a retired maths teacher living in a small coastal community in Maine. When I started the book, I imagined it would tell her life story through flashbacks but it’s actually a series of stories. In some Olive is the main character, so that we see her relationship with her husband and son; in others she’s merely 'my old math teacher'. 'What will you think of her?' asks the front cover (I was expecting to find book club notes at the back, but no). Olive is certainly not very likeable. She’s physically large and unattractive, she snaps at her husband and alienates her only child. By the end of the book one feels a little more sympathetically towards her, but not much. I suppose this is the author being realistic. The descriptions of the so-called ordinary lives of ordinary people in small town America are reminiscent of Fannie Flagg but, sadly, without her humour. Reading Flagg, you can believe that there are people in the world who are, you know, happy. I can’t think of a single happy character in Olive Kitteridge and there’s an unusually high suicide rate. So, although it’s well done, I found this a deeply depressing book and will be glad to take it back to the library. Thank goodness for Anne Tyler, say I.
Tags: anne tyler, elizabeth strout, fannie flagg
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