Olive Kitteridge is described as a ”novel in stories”. I’m not a big fan of short stories, and so wasn’t convinced that I’d enjoy this book, but as it won the Pulitzer prize I thought I’d give it a try.
I think the emphasis on this being a collection of short stories is misleading, as it is essentially just a novel about one woman, Olive Kitteridge. The story is told through the eyes of various people who knew her, capturing the important moments in her life, in what at first, are seemingly random snippets. The use of small-town gossip, to tell much of the story was a clever medium, which I haven’t seen used before.
The book begins quite slowly, and I have to admit that for the first few chapters I didn’t know what to make of it. The writing was very vivid and powerful, but the large number of characters meant that I wasn’t sure who, or what, was important. About a third of the way through things began to fall into place. Olive’s character became prominent, and I felt that I understood what was happening. I don’t want to give anything away, but I think it is important that you know that the overwhelming emotion I felt on completing the book was that of heartbreak. This book is incredibly touching, and packed with feelings of sadness, and loss. It questions which things are important in life, and examines the relationships between family members who have forgotten how to love each other. Olive’s emotions are powerful and realistic. All mothers will sympathise with her feelings of isolation, as her only son distances himself from her.
Overall, I found this to be an insightful, touching novel on the reflections of an old woman nearing death. It is a great book, and I think it is worthy of the Pulitzer prize, but I’m not sure it will stand the test of time.