Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Review: Olive Kitteridge - Pride and the Pulitzer

We in Maine have reason to be proud today. Elizabeth Strout, a graduate of Bates College here in Maine, just won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for this wonderful collection of stories Olive Kitteridge. Here's what I wrote for my 999 challenge review earlier this year:
I read this originally last year and didn't care for it. I just couldn't stand the central character. This was the January read for our "Read around Maine" online book group which grew out of our Literary Map of Maine, so I thought I'd give it another chance to see if other people had the same reaction I did. I'm so glad I read it again. I think when I first read it last year, I was so ill, that I had no tolerance for hard times or nasty people.
This is an exquisitely written book of stories about life in small town coastal Maine. I almost feel I know every one of these people. Each story could be a stand-alone, but Olive Kitteridge, a strong, opinionated, stoic, often unhappy woman appears in each story. While change is happening, Olive seems not to notice. Her story and that of her husband and only son are so well-written that you don't have to like her to love the book. The writing is clean, crisp, and you can almost smell the pines, feel the mist, and hear the foghorns while you read. I am thrilled that Elizabeth Strout received this honor. It's certainly deserved.


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