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Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

Olive Kitteridge (2008)

by Elizabeth Strout

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
6,563480578 (3.92)438
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    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 438 mentions

English (474)  Catalan (3)  Spanish (1)  Danish (1)  German (1)  Dutch (1)  Italian (1)  All (482)
Showing 1-5 of 474 (next | show all)
This novel can be summed up by the bumper sticker "Life is a bitch and then you die."

I don't know when exactly it was decided that the only award-worthy literature must be depressing literature, but we're here. To wit, this novel, which won the Pulitzer Prize.

It's about sad, lonely, sick, depressed, dying and dead people in a sad, depressed backwater town. There's a glut of suicides, doughnut-eating, disappointing marriages and relationships, with lots of musings on how life has not turned out as one thought in one's youth.

A has-been/never-been piano player. An old lady who learns of her husband's infidelity. An adult son whose mother killed herself returns home to do the same. A girl who loses her brief fight with anorexia. And on, and on and on.

There is no redeeming value to these people's lives or to their stories. There is no joy in this book, no spiritual uplift (or is that idea taboo in this post-modern world?). There's no redemption. It's bleak, bleak, bleak. When did beauty and uplift in literature become passe? When did writing about happy people go out of fashion?

What kind of writer sits down and says "I think I'll dwell on the sadness and agonies of lonely frightened people? ( )
  ChayaLovesToRead | Feb 28, 2017 |
I really liked this one! It is a Pulitzer-Prize winner, and it's written in several short stories about Olive, her family, and the people that live in her town. She isn't a main character in every story but she is usually mentioned. Also, she is not a very nice person, on the surface at least. It is not a happy book, but somehow, the way it is written is compelling. I know I'm not selling this one very well, but I wasn't ready for it to end. ( )
  TerriS | Feb 27, 2017 |
Read in August, 09, re-read in October. ( )
  janb37 | Feb 13, 2017 |
Beautifully observed set of stories in small town, Maine, all involving Olive Kitteridge. ( )
  sianpr | Feb 12, 2017 |
One night a while back, my wife and I plopped ourselves down on the sofa to watch some reality television. On the screen came the image of an otherwise attractive person with an incredibly unpleasant look on their face, sort of a cross between hatred, scorn, and condescension. “Classic RBF,” my wife said. “RBF?” I asked, being largely unaware of any social media-generated phenomena. “Resting Bitch Face,” she answered.

I thought of that conversation again when I was reading Olive Kitteridge, Elizabeth Strout’s compelling character study of an elderly woman living in small town in coastal Maine, as well as the myriad residents of the town itself. Told mostly through a series of vignettes from the perspectives of other people whose lives Olive touches, the book provides a sad and sensitive portrait of someone who cannot seem to get out of her own way most of the time. Olive is simply not a pleasant woman and none of the other characters in the novel—which is really more like a series of connected short stories than a cohesive large-form narrative—would disagree.

The writing here is beautiful; almost flawless, in fact, in the subtle and insightful way it allows us to see inside some truly heartbreaking situations. Indeed, that may be the only thing saving the reader from the oppressive sense of despair imparted throughout the bleak events in the book, which include accidental shootings, suicides and attempted suicides, mothers abandoning or emotionally abusing their children, children deserting parents, spouses crippled by strokes, spouses dying prematurely, a young woman starving herself to death, and so on. Of course, connecting all these grim story threads is Olive herself, with her RBF and perpetually disapproving manner. She is not a character that you will like, but she is definitely not one you will easily forget. ( )
1 vote browner56 | Feb 10, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 474 (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 editionscalculated
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.
Who, who, does not have their basket of trips.
He wanted to put his arms around her, but she had a darkness that seemed to stand beside her like an acquaintance that would not go away. - "Pharmacy"
Angie... felt she had figured something out too late, and that must be the way of life, to get something figured out when it was too late. - "The Piano Player"
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
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 of Crosby, Maine, 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 her husband 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 into a deeper understanding of herself and her life - sometimes painfully, but always with ruthless honesty.

Incoming Tide
The Piano Player
A Little Burst
A Different Road
Winter Concert
Basket of Trips
Ship in a Bottle
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No descriptions found.

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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