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Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

Wow, what a gorgeous read this was. A rare treat. It’s a “novel in stories” which relates the later years of Olive Kitteridge (and her husband, her son and her neighbours.) It succeeds so beautifully for me because it is packed with quiet truths. I love fiction which illuminates our lives, and these stories felt very real.

I don’t want to ruin things for anyone who has yet to read this so will try not to give too much away, however when Olive visits her son in New York it was the first time that the voice seemed to slip to me. As for the airport scene? Phooey. That’s what I reckon. So yeah, “Security” was the weakest story by far. The rest were perfect slices of lives, stories full to busting and yet none of it feeling over written. Wonderful.

BUT!

I would not have picked this book up in a million years. This is the cover:

and I still have no clue what the fuck it has to do with the book. Whose back is that meant to be? It sure as fuck ain’t Olive’s – we know she’s a much larger than average woman in her seventies. I can’t think of anyone else in the book who this could be either. So presumably the publishers think this is an enticing cover? It looks like a certain type of frothy book, non literary, a girly affair. It’s not. This book won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for fiction, and hurrah, it is a well deserved win. There’s no mention of it on the cover (yet) and hopefully when there is it will give others who may pass this by pause for thought. If it hadn’t have been for Nik Perring raving about this I would not have bothered. Thanks Nik – it’s brilliant, and I wholeheartedly recommend it to all.

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14 responses »

  1. The cover is clearly a ruse to get 'safe' readers to buy it. I like the sound of this book and will stick it on the wishlist.

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  2. I've put this on my wishlist too.

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  3. Yes, I'm often appalled by the choices some publishers make when it comes to book covers and, like you, there have been a couple I've read of late that I would never have picked up. It's also an interesting exercise to compare covers for different editions.

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  4. Your description of this book has perked my interest. As you say, the cover choice seems very odd. I would not have given that book a second look if I saw it on a shelf in a bookstore. The fact that it appears to have no connection to the contents seems ludicrous.

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  5. So glad you enjoyed it! To add a slightly less positive note, I was a bit suspicious of the "linked stories" thing and did feel maybe it was forced in a few places, having to have Olive in a walk-on part in a few stories, and it made me sad when a character didn't return, which is never something I'd think in a "regular" collection. I'd rather it be unlinked, just be a beautiful collection of poignant stories. Yes, a few let downs, but on the whole, fabulous. Cover?? No clue, mine didn't look like that, I don't think!

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  6. I probably wouldn't look twice at this cover normally, but now that I have – because you mentioned it – I think she has an attractive back, and quite beautiful long fingers, and I'm shallow enough to admit that that could be enough of a reason for me to read it, or at least to start reading it.Cheers,Bob

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  7. Bob – her back is fine, but the fact remains that it's strange to have a cover that does not relate one bit to the stories inside.Tania – Yes, it does make you wonder if the advice was to force Olive to walk on occasionally and therefore shoehorn the word novel into marketing, and yes again, there were dips in quality. Nonetheless she and her husband were the standout characters I thought and overall this was really very good.Dan – must be a marketing ploy but it seems such a strange one.Jim – Google search shows three other covers for the book, all much more suitable, and very tasteful.http://images.google.com/images?client=safari&rls=en-gb&q=olive%20kitteridge%20cover&oe=UTF-8&um=1&ie=UTF-8&sa=N&hl=en&tab=wiJessica and WRW – it is well worth a read, don't be put off by that rubbish cover!

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  8. Thrilled you liked it! The cover: Bobbins and completely nothing to do with anything. The airport scene: also my least favourite of the whole book. BUT (and this is a big but which is why I've capsed it) the awkwardness, and shoehornedness, for me, worked in an odd way (I hope this was how it was intended) because it showed how life (be it Olive's or ours or – err – mine!!)IS an awkward thing and often doesn't quite fit.As you say, a worthy winner. And it IS a great book, imo (sorry T!! 🙂 ).Nik

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  9. ooo thanks all, will go get it now, all ready for Cornwall next week and endless rainy days when I don't even bother to get out of bed. I will put a brown paper cover over if I get that one. Wouldnt want the team to think Id gone soft.

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  10. I'd love to know what you think of it Vanessa. And Nik, yes, the awkwardness does work to a certain extent. I also like how the separate characters help to build the larger picture of the place they live. And I love Olive.

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  11. Exactly – seeing Olive through other people is the almost perfect Show, isn't isn't it?I love her too.Nik

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