Book Review: Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

Olive Kitteridge
by Elizabeth Strout

Publication date: 2016
Publisher:  Scribner (first published March 25th 2008)
Pages: 270


Olive Kitteridge: indomitable, compassionate and often unpredictable. A retired schoolteacher in a small coastal town in Maine, as she grows older she struggles to make sense of the changes in her life. She is a woman who sees into the hearts of those around her, their triumphs and tragedies…

A penetrating, vibrant exploration of the human soul, the story of Olive Kitteridge will make you laugh, nod in recognition, wince in pain, and shed a tear or two.

Source: Goodreads


Firstly, thanks very much to @fearnleyface for sending me her spare copy of this book! I read “My Name is Lucy Barton” in September last year and have had my eyes on Pulitzer-Prizewinning “Olive Kitteridge” ever since.

“She didn’t like to be alone. Even more, she didn’t like being with people.” 

This is a collection of 13 short stories, all connected in some way to leading lady Olive Kitteridge. Olive is a larger than life woman, she’s a retired school teacher, a concerned mother and a nosy neighbour. Olive is rude and crass and she’s definitely not afraid to say what she’s thinking but somehow she’s still a little bit loveable.

As expected, Elizabeth Strout writes beautifully but I found the structure of this book to be a little awkward. I enjoyed several of these stories, most of all the opening story entitled ‘Pharmacy’, but there were a few that didn’t interest me that much. A lot of the day-to-day lives in Maine are just not that interesting and for those that I did get into, they often came to an abrupt end just when I was connecting with the characters.

I think this may be one to come back to in the future, perhaps treating the stories as individual pieces rather than reading them as a whole. It feels that in reading this book as I would a normal novel, I may have lost some of the feeling and connection intended by the author.

Overall rating: I’m not sure I understand the hype surroundingElizabeth Strout‘s “Olive Kitteridge” but I enjoyed it nonetheless. Some stories I loved but some not so much and I’m beginning to feel that I may need to give it a second chance down the line. For now it’s 3 stars, but I’m not ruling this one out for a re-read at some point.

See my other reviews of books by Elizabeth Strout here:

5 thoughts on “Book Review: Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

  1. The cover for this is just lovely 😍 I’m not a massive fan of short stories but making them a series of stories about just the one character sounds really intriguing. Great post!


  2. I also had a “meh” response to “Olive Kittredge” but when I recently read the sequel, “Olive, Again,” I loved it. Since I read the first one so long ago I can’t tell whether I’m just in a different reading mood or if the second book had a little more character depth in it, but in any case, you may it enjoy it more as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I definitely think that I might not have been in the right reading mood for Olive first time round so I’ve kept her on my shelf for a re-read some day. I didn’t know there was a sequel though, perhaps I’ll give that a go somewhere down the line. Thanks very much for letting me know about it, fingers crossed I like it too!


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