Review: Oliver Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

9781471149047I missed this Pulitzer Prize winning novel the first time around and after watching the first 15 minutes of the new HBO mini-series I know I had to read the book. Reading a book whilst simultaneously watching the television show has its own challenges but for the most part I managed to read behind watching the TV show which just finished screening here in Australia..

The book is made up of short stories all set in the small coastal Maine town of Crosby featuring to various degrees Olive Kitteridge. We are introduced to Olive through her husband Henry. In other stories Olive pops up in or is mentioned on the fly. But as we get to know Olive through others’ eyes, and then her own, we get to meet a complex woman who is often misunderstood and maligned. Olive is a blunt, no-nonsense Maths teacher who only gets blunter and less tolerant for nonsense as she gets older. While to others, especially her son, she appears uncaring and brutal she is in fact a very caring and sympathetic person who is much-loved by her husband Henry whom she is fiercely protective of. Through Olive we get a fantastic insight into getting older and the fears, joys and sadness that it brings.

The TV series is a distilled version of the book focusing much more on Olive. It does a fantastic job of capturing Olive’s journey but at the expense of her surroundings. The book captures more of the town and the other people living in it and Olive’s story is interspersed with the tribulations of others. The mini-series is much more linear and continuous whereas each story in the book is self-contained and can be read and appreciated on their own. Both the book and the TV series suck you into their world and it was an absolute pleasure to read and watch both.

Buy the book here…

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Jon Page

Jon Page is a bookseller and author of the Bite the Book Blog.