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December 13, 2010

Olive Kitteridge

Good morning! This month (and a half) of online bookishness was spent with Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout.

I first read Elizabeth Strout when Amy and Isabelle was published, and I thought she had a lovely writing style, so crisp at times you could close your eyes and just smell the scene.

I didn't realize at first that this book was a collection of short stories. Once I realized it wasn't a traditional novel I could appreciate the way it was arranged (I tend to like short stories, Alice Munro is a favorite.) I will say I didn't like this book nearly as much as I liked Amy and Isabelle. I'm very curious what you thought about the story collection format. Did you like it? Or do you prefer a solid, singular novel with a more traditional story arc? I often felt that I wanted a little more, but the format itself kind of painted Olive as much as the words: complex, seen in different lights as a different person, incomplete.

And what did you think of the book? Satisfying? Left you wanting? Loved it? couldn't get into it?

No matter what you think of Olive it's hard to deny that Strout is a beautiful writer. I think what I liked most about Olive Kitteridge was the underlying idea that you never really know another person. Of course there are folks who believe you can know someone else fully and completely but I just don't think it's possible. Every person has their secrets, their quiet omissions, their spaces that are unknowable even to themselves. Someone you've known a lifetime may surprise you tomorrow. And that underlying tone of the character makes the book both unsettling and interesting (to me). But then again I like the idea that every human being is a little puzzle of impulses and desires.

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Let me know what you thought of the book and if you have a particular classic in mind you may want to read soon. I think we'll wait until after the new year to get all bookish again, perhaps because some of you are encased in snow and ice and perhaps because some of us have spring fever already with 80-degree sunny days. Or perhaps because neither of us can knit and read at the same time! (You all who can knit and read simultaneously boggle my mind. Boggle!) And I will pick someone from the comments to win a mystery box of goodies, including some Patons Up Country that is rarer than the most priceless gem...

Posted by laurie at December 13, 2010 4:55 AM