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Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

Olive Kitteridge (2008)

by Elizabeth Strout

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
5,430None796 (3.93)260
  1. 50
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  11. 00
    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 260 mentions

English (399)  Catalan (2)  Finnish (1)  Danish (1)  Spanish (1)  German (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (406)
Showing 1-5 of 399 (next | show all)
"Olive. . . knows that loneliness can kill people - in different ways can actually make you die. Olive's private view is that life depends on what she thinks of as "big bursts" and "little bursts". Big bursts are things like marriage or children, intimacies that keep you afloat, but these big bursts hold dangerous, unseen currents. Which is why you need the little bursts as well: a friendly clerk at Bradlee's, let's say, or the waitress at Dunkin' Donuts who knows how you like your coffee. Tricky business, really."
— Elizabeth Strout (Olive Kitteridge) ( )
  FAR2MANYBOOKS | Apr 5, 2014 |
"Olive. . . knows that loneliness can kill people - in different ways can actually make you die. Olive's private view is that life depends on what she thinks of as "big bursts" and "little bursts". Big bursts are things like marriage or children, intimacies that keep you afloat, but these big bursts hold dangerous, unseen currents. Which is why you need the little bursts as well: a friendly clerk at Bradlee's, let's say, or the waitress at Dunkin' Donuts who knows how you like your coffee. Tricky business, really."
— Elizabeth Strout (Olive Kitteridge) ( )
  FAR2MANYBOOKS | Apr 5, 2014 |
I can see why this story collection has been popular, but can't say it did much for me unfortunately. Too gloomy by far and I wasn't taken enough with the writing itself for it to take on any measure of beauty in the pathos. The novel is made up of a series of unconnected short stories, the only link between them being the character of Olive Kitteridge, a retired math teacher in the small town of Crosby, Maine. There is a progression in time, and some of the stories focus directly on Olive and her family members, starting with her husband Henry, a retired pharmacist who ran his own business for many years and is dedicated to Olive and their son Christopher, even though Olive has always been hard to get along with, prickly and contrary. Some of the stories centre on various characters in the town, the only link with Olive being they are ex-students of hers, one woman is a pianist at a nightclub Olive sometimes frequents with Henry, other characters have only briefly had an acquaintance with her in which case Olive only gets a passing mention. We see her relationship with her son over the years, with Christopher seemingly doing everything he can to detach himself from his parents—who have built him a beautiful house near them—marrying an unpleasant woman who makes him move out to California and then divorces him within the year. Henry has a heart attack and ends up in a convalescent home, where Olive visits him every day and talks to him, although it is not sure whether he can understand her or indeed can even still hear anything at all. I got the feeling Strout's intention here was to present slices of real life, with all it's large and small tragedies as a way to show the human condition, but I found it all too bleak by far and filled with depressing episodes, with hardly any lightness at all to lighten the mix or represent that even in the direst circumstances, there is always an opportunity to smile. We do see Olive at one point feeling optimistic and allowing herself to be gay, only for another family disaster to stomp out any possibility of joy to settle in her heart. I found she had little to no redeeming characteristics, not so snarky as to be humorous or outrageous, merely unpleasant and keeping everyone including the reader at a distance. The last story got close to revealing some sort of beauty, when she gets close to a neighbour whom she and Henry have never liked. They are both now widowers, and she finds him collapsed on the ground and as she's about to go find help, he begs her not to let him die alone, and he doesn't, after which they go out on a few dates together. Eventually Olive finds out he holds views, political and otherwise which she can't abide by, but both being in need for companionship, they agree to disagree and remain friendly all the same, and maybe even more? We are left with a question mark here, which is fine. And this last approaches a hopeful moment. Almost. But everything leading up to it has been so pathetic and sad that I'm left feeling just blue and disgusted. I've seen pathetic and sad up close and personal all my life, and hardly need to read about it to know the exact texture and feeling of it's unpleasant shroud. And there was not, in my eye, enough poetry there to make it an transcending experience. I know I'm disagreeing with lots of people here, since this book did after all garner the Pulitzer award, among other accolades and is beloved by many LTers. Sorry to Pat, who loved this book and chose it for me. There's never any knowing how we'll react to any given book, but I had been meaning to read it for years, more or less since it came out, so I'm glad I at least know what it's all about. Just not my cup of tea. ( )
  Smiler69 | Mar 17, 2014 |
I hardly ever abandon books. Really, I don't. Sometimes I finish really horrible books because I don't want the time I've already put into them to be a waste. I just can't get into this right now. I might try to pick it up again one day, and I might not. I just know that between work and school, when I have time to read just for myself, I want to enjoy it. Glad I only spent 50 cents on it at goodwill or I'd be really mad.
  raisedbybooks | Mar 12, 2014 |
I thought it was well done with very complete character portraits. No real heroes or villians, just everyday people trying to live life as best they can. ( )
  Betty.Ann.Beam | Mar 1, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 399 (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.
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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
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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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