I've read so many varied reviews of Olive Kitteridge over the years, that I knew that this was probably going to be a 'love it or hate it' kind of book.
Given my enjoyment of Strout's The Burgess Boys, I was expecting to love it.
Here was another story with all my favourite themes - belonging, yearning vs reality, hope vs reality, desire vs reality, truth and lies.
But in all the reviews I've read, no-one had ever told me that Olive Kitteridge could basically be read as a collection of short stories!
Each chapter is a snapshot in time for the people of Crosby, Maine.
Some of the chapters focus specifically on Olive or her husband, Henry.
But the bulk of the chapters follow the other inhabitants of small town Crosby as they go about their daily lives.
These lives intersect with Olive & Henry in various ways. They provide multiple viewpoints and assessments of Olive's character. Many of these views are not very positive.
And it is easy to see why.
Olive is one of those frustrating characters who has very little awareness of how her behaviour & words impact on others. She is completely bewildered by the loss of friends and the alienation of her only son. The only person who patiently stands by her side, constantly seeing the best in her, is gentle, loyal, optimistic Henry.
Olive Kitteridge is a force to be reckoned with. We all know a version of Olive.
Strout's genius is making Olive such a sympathetic, understandable character.
The writing is sublime, the pacing is subtle and the characterisations are observant & elegant. It's a simply told story full of the complexities & nuances of human nature.
I loved it.
(Olive also fulfills about 5 reading challenges for me.)