Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout

This isn’t a proper review, I just read the book and adored it. If you’ve read Olive Kitteridge (my review is here) you’ll have loved it and you’ll love this. I had to stop every now and then and cry – it’s a triumph and may also have smashed my heart a little. I really admire the way Strout reveals profound truths about the human experience so lightly. Buy it, borrow it, read it. (But be prepared to pause and think, oof, yes, that’s it, right there, the truth of love and death and loneliness and age and feel the fragility of our silly lives.)

Bobbins, short stories (and Janice Galloway)

I love my job. I feel very lucky to work in such an amazingly gorgeous bookshop and to get to go in one day a week and soak up the fiction. Anyway, bobbins and short stories:

A woman came and asked if we had a copy of a specific book. Yes we do, it’s on the next floor up.
“Oh, forget it,” she said sounding disappointed and left.

Someone bought my all time favourite novel “The Trick is to Keep Breathing” by Janice Galloway and I couldn’t resist saying “Ooh, I love this book, it’s my favourite novel EVER.”
“Oh,” the customer replied. “I was looking at “Where You find It” too.”
“You MUST get that as well,” I said. “It’s amazing.”
“Okay. You know, I came in for “This is not about me” really but couldn’t find it.”
“Oh my goodness, also brilliant, it’s in biography, I can grab you a copy if you like?”
BEST CUSTOMER EVER! Oh, and for anyone who has followed my triumphant tale of selling the awesome “Where You FInd It” collection, that brings the total sold to 72. Not bad for a book we didn’t stock eh?
Exciting news is that a collection of Janice Galloway’s stories is forthcoming. How cool is that? I suppose I’ll replace my “Where You Find It”‘s with the new collection, but I’ll be sad in a way. I’m very fond of that book.

Controversially (or, erm, not) I put “Olive Kitteridge” in my short story display case. (If Annie Clarkson reads this please note that Brighton Waterstones has a gorgeous short story display case!)

In other short story news A. L Kennedy’s new collection “What Becomes” is out. I had the pleasure of reviewing it for Waterstone’s Books Quarterly: ( “What Becomes is an impeccable collection from one of the most talented writers around. These are stories that ache and resonate as Kennedy’s stylistic scalpel reveals the pain and truth inside each of her characters. Highly recommended.”)

Today a new online journal has been published. Fancy a read? Head over to The Collagist.

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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