Monday, March 1, 2010

Olive Kitteridge, by Elizabeth Strout

It's annoying to dislike a book because of the way it has been marketed, but there you go. I liked several of these stories, but I really hated the conceit of stringing them together by including the title character in each. Olive Kitteredge is tangential, to say the least, in quite a few of the stories, set in a coastal town in Maine. I'm not sure why the author chose to use her as the thread - the location itself seems to me to be a much more reasonable point of connection.

So I disliked the structure, and could have done without a few of the stories. What I really liked about this book, though, was the depiction of life in a small northern town. A native of the upper reaches of New England, I am drawn to literature that describes the gritty, spectacular landscape, as well as the quirky mentality of its residents. Russell Banks does a really terrific job depicting New England in all its beauty and ugliness, as does Carolyn Chute. In Olive Kitteredge, Elizabeth Strout gives us a realistic picture of year-round life in small-town Maine.

Where I heard about this book
: It won the Pulitzer last year.

What I thought of this book
: Good. 3 stars.

What this book is about
: A collection of short stories in which the prickly, usually unpleasant Olive Kitteredge either features or makes an appearance.

I like the subjects of love and lust as seen from the point of view of the beyond-middle-age set. There are several happy but not really all that great marriages at the heart of these stories, a topic which I always find fascinating.