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Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

Olive Kitteridge (2008)

by Elizabeth Strout

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
5,640423756 (3.91)313
  1. 50
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    The Edge of Darkness by Mary Ellen Chase (CurrerBell)
    CurrerBell: Maine regionalism can often be at its best when written as a collection of short stories, character studies, or vignettes all united around a single character, as in the case of Elizabeth Strout's Olive Kitteridge, Mary Ellen Chase's The Edge of Darkness, and Sarah Orne Jewett's The Country of the Pointed Firs.… (more)
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» See also 313 mentions

English (415)  Catalan (2)  Danish (1)  Spanish (1)  Italian (1)  German (1)  All languages (421)
Showing 1-5 of 415 (next | show all)
The character Olive Kitteridge is a complicated woman. On the one hand she is a sarcastic, opinionated person who is quick to judge and castigate others. On the other hand, she loves her feckless husband, Henry and her son Chris but can't seem to help being judgmental and angry with them on a regular basis. Henry, the put upon small town pharmacist takes it all in. Chris rebels but only somewhat. She easily criticizes others in her small Maine town of Crosby but will cry at the plight of an anorexic girl.

She moves through the thirteen stories as a larger than life (both physically and psychologically) character and evokes in the reader annoyance and sympathy as there is something deeper than her angry o0tubursts and judgmental attitudes.

In an interview the author Elizabeth Strout stated that the character of Olive was easy to write and came to her as a complete character. Themes of marriage changing times and aging are all on display through the stories as Olive becomes a grandmother, a widow of sorts and retires from her teaching profession. She deals with all this in a way that is realistic and at the same time unique to herself.

The novel is rich in the humor and irony human struggles, change and loss. Olive Kitteridge is certainly one of the most compelling and interesting characters in the first decade of this century. ( )
  Wisconco | Nov 23, 2014 |
I adored everything about this book. The way Olive was in every story, even when she was not a protagonist, the way the stories built up 'the' story of Olive. I loved how flawed she is. This was such a good book and so beautifully written that I did not underline one single sentence, nor did I turn down a single page. ( )
  KymmAC | Nov 11, 2014 |
Not really sure whether this should be classed as a short story collection or novel, but I did very much enjoy it. One disclaimer: the title character was my least favorite -- a bitter, angry fusspot who reminded me way too much of myself for comfort. However, the other characters were interesting, esp. Olive's long-suffering husband Henry, and that made up for Olive, who would have been completely unbearable if she'd been more in the forefront. ( )
  BooksCatsEtc | Oct 26, 2014 |
Each selection in this "novel in short stories" is wonderfully written and sharply observed, but to me, they didn't add up to a compelling whole. Each story introduced new plots, thematic concerns and characters, and, by the time I got to the later stories I had already forgotten the details of the earlier ones. So, while I liked the core story of prickly Olive, her gentle husband Henry, and her not-so-lovable son Christopher, the rest of the denizens of Crosby, Maine struck me as superfluous. I would have preferred a novel about the Kitteridge family instead. ( )
  akblanchard | Oct 19, 2014 |
"A scared old woman is what she is; all she knows these days is that when the sun goes down, it is time to go to bed. People manage. She is not so sure. The tide is still out on that one, she thinks." (174)

From the Publisher:
"At times stern, at other times patient, at times perceptive, at other times in sad denial, Olive Kitteridge, a retired schoolteacher, deplores the changes in her little town and in the world at large, but she doesn’t always recognize the changes in those around her: a lounge musician haunted by a past romance; a former student who has lost the will to live; Olive’s own adult child, who feels tyrannized by her irrational sensitivities; and Henry, who finds his loyalty to his marriage both a blessing and a curse.

As the townspeople grapple with their problems, mild and dire, Olive is brought to a deeper understanding of herself and her life – sometimes painfully, but always with ruthless honesty. [Olive Kitteridge] offers profound insights into the human condition – its conflicts, its tragedies and joys, and the endurance it requires."

My Review:
An unapologetic atheist, prone to dramatic mood swings, Olive is ferocious, complicated, kind, and sometimes cruel – she is the human in all of us, and, interestingly, the character who Strout reveals was the easiest to write: "Whenever she walked through a door, took a ride in her car, or walked along the river, I felt lucky to follow her." (275)

It’s certainly not difficult to understand how Strout won won the Pulitzer Prize for [Olive Kitteridge], or how the novel made so many Best of 2013 lists. The small town of Crosby, Maine came easily come to life under her guidance, as did its numerous and fabulously real characters – all remarkably unremarkable in and of themselves. Olive herself is unforgettable! Highly, highly recommended.

"... oh, what young people did not know. They did not know that lumpy, aged, and wrinkled bodies were as needy as their own young, firm ones, that love was not to be tossed away carelessly ... she had not known what one should know: that day after day was unconsciously squandered." (270) ( )
4 vote lit_chick | Sep 7, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 415 (next | show all)
Each of the 13 tales serves as an individual microcosm of small-town life, with its gossip, small kindnesses, and everyday tragedies. Not all the minor characters stand out the way Henry and Olive do, and there are a pile of them to keep straight by the end. I also couldn’t quite place how one story, “Ship in a Bottle,” meshed with the rest. But those are small flaws far outweighed by the book’s compassion and intelligence.
The pleasure in reading “Olive Kitteridge” comes from an intense identification with complicated, not always admirable, characters. And there are moments in which slipping into a character’s viewpoint seems to involve the revelation of an emotion more powerful and interesting than simple fellow feeling—a complex, sometimes dark, sometimes life-sustaining dependency on others.

» Add other authors (9 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Elizabeth Stroutprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Burr, SandraNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For my mother who can make life magical and is the best storyteller I know.
First words
For many years Henry Kitteridge was a pharmacist in the next town over, driving every morning on snowy roads, or rainy roads, or summertime roads, when the wild raspberries shot their new growth in brambles along the last section of town before he turned off to where the wider road led to the pharmacy.
Olive had sat in her bedroom and wept like a baby, not so much for this country but for the city itself, which had seemed to her to become suddenly no longer a foreign, hardened place, but as fragile as a class of kindergarten children, brave in their terror.
She showed him the library built the year before Henry's stroke, with its cathedral ceilng and skylights. He looked at the books, and she wanted to say, "Stop that," as though he were reading her diary.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
Incoming Tide
The Piano Player
A Little Burst
A Different Road
Winter Concert
Basket of Trips
Ship in a Bottle
Haiku summary

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At the edge of the continent, in the small town of Crosby, Maine, lives Olive Kitteridge, a retired schoolteacher who deplores the changes in her town and in the world at large but doesn't always recognize the changes in those around her.

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