Saturday, August 4, 2012

Olive Kitteridge

Book Review

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout.

I've been dragging my feet. And my eyes. And my fingers.

I didn't want to write this review.

I finished the book several weeks ago, but I've had other things to write.

I've had bigger fish to fry.

I've had fences to mend.

I've been traveling like a cat on a hot tin roof.

Okay, enough idioms.

But I do think this is a classic example of procrastination.

I didn't want to write this review.

Can you tell yet that I might not have liked the book?

Olive Kitteridge

This is a collection of stories revolving around our central character, Olive Kitteridge. These stories are snapshots, only a few of which are from Olive's perspective. We are presented with dysfunction, depression, and difficult personalities.

Those might make for an interesting read.

For me, those qualities make for a depressing read.

And these stories are disconnected, told from different perspectives, different time frames, and with lots of characters that we never get to know. Characters are thrown in the narrative, without frame or reference. Relevancy? Why bother with character relevancy?

Because I don't care about characters that don't have relevance. I like character-driven novels. Am I alone here?

I had a hard time piecing it all together. Or much of it together.

Some of these stories mention Olive so little that I couldn't figure out why they were included in the book at all.

And yet, in spite of all of that, this book somehow feels real. These are internal and external dramas that people live with, day in and day out. It is not glossy and smooth and sparkly. Never mind that these are not people, but characters.

I guess this is what some might say makes great fiction. Not necessarily me, but some people.

In fact, this book won the Pultizer Prize for Fiction in 2009.


But I am starting to see a trend now.

In order to win the Pultizer, you must write something disconnected, complicated, confusing, and with disturbing personalities.

That is what I have thought about all of the prize-winning novels I have read. All two of them; this one and A Visit from the Goon Squad.

Two examples doesn't really make an adequate sample from which a trend can be identified.

Yet, I'm not out searching for more prize-winning novels. I am out searching for good, enjoyable reads.

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