Many stories herein are subject to the faulty, and sometimes creative, memory of the blog owner and should not be taken as factual, although the names and events are real! Kind of.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Olive Kitteridge--Read this Book? I'm Not So Sure

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout is a collection of short stories set in a small town in Maine.  The main character throughout the book is Olive Kitteridge, formidable 7th grade math teacher, demanding mother, gruff wife.  Olive is a large woman with large opinions and a large circle of influence in the town since she has taught most of the inhabitants throughout her many years of teaching.  Several stories are about the formidable Olive or her family, some tell of villager's lives who have close interaction with Olive and some only mention Olive's name. 

I can't say I liked this book.  It has some beautiful prose and I admired the author's technique of centering the story around one villager while telling the tale of those she or her husband touched.  But the chapters were dark.  The last chapter in the book had a somewhat happy ending, but the rest dealt with such tragedy.  I must admit I was somewhat bored reading the book also.  About the time I was ready to quit, the author reeled me back in with her lovely language and the apparent promise of something better to come. 

I should have realized since it had won so many prizes, had been recommended by Oprah and had glowing reviews that I probably wouldn't really like it.  

The ironic thing is that while I must say that Strout's lyrical writing kept me reading, it was her vulgar language use that was what made me want to quit.  I do not understand the use of the 'f' word sprinkled throughout books.  Neither I nor my family uses it.  My friends don't.  My neighbors don't.  I don't hear it in line at the grocery store or at the convenience store or at work or anywhere else I frequent. 

I don't even find it in some of those trashy novels I read occasionally!  And those have some scenes I skip over!  

Is it an Eastern thing?  Has it been used so much that it's just a word?  I don't know and I'm not going to research it.  I suppose it's not considered any worse by some individuals than other words, but that one particular word is more offensive to me than just about any other and when an author uses it, I'm afraid I'm done with them. 


rolodexter said...

I'm sorry. I know this is supposed to be a great collection of short stories, as it's recognized well, but the shorts are boring. I think I might have just picked this one up at the wrong time. I'm going through this thing, where I don't really like fiction in the third person. I'm finding the third person narrative to be irritating, corny, trite. The leaves did this, and the sun did this to the building. It's trite. It's exhausted. We all don't have very much time these days, and save for the awful reason to just stop and smell the shitty roses, I really am finding that fiction has to say something; come out with it already. I'm impatient. I'll try it again in a month.

Suzanne said...


I love your website! Thanks for commenting on my entry about Olive Kitteridge at www.bowkerreads.com I will come back to your site again. Please come back to the Bowker site too! I am glad I was not the only one who didn't enjoy Olive. It was not the best use of my reading time! Besides The Secret Life of Bees, I also loved The Art of Racing in the Rain. Have you read that one? See my review on the Bowker site. Hope to hear from you soon.


P.S. I was born and raised in New York and I really don't think the "F" word can be called something that is an "Easterner" thing. The author simply thought this was appropriate for her book. It definitely was pointless, but I can't say it was put there because the novel took place in Maine.

One Last Thought.......

Pleasant words are a honeycomb;
sweet to the soul and healing to the body.
Proverbs 16: