Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout: prepare your heart and mind for some beautiful blows

Review: Ten years on we find Olive Kitteridge having to confront her old age

Elizabeth Strout: No-one was more surprised than Strout when Olive Kitteridge exceeded all expectations by winning the Pulitzer prize. Photograph: Todd Heisler/The New York Times

Elizabeth Strout: No-one was more surprised than Strout when Olive Kitteridge exceeded all expectations by winning the Pulitzer prize. Photograph: Todd Heisler/The New York Times

Maine, the largest state in New England at 6,000 sq km, is the most northeasterly point of the USA. To the north lies Canada and to the east its famous rocky coastline angles along the Atlantic Ocean. As 80 per cent of the land is covered in forestry, Maine has the lowest population of any state east of the Mississippi River. Statistics suggest that it should be economically depressed but the awesome beauty of its landscape has saved it from ruin. This is the state where Elizabeth Strout was born and raised and the same location where Olive Kitteridge, her Pulitzer Prize winning novel of 2008, was set in the fictional town of Crosby.

Everyone fell in love with Olive, the invisible subject from literature who had been given a voice the world desperately wanted to hear

No-one was more surprised than Strout when this, her third novel, exceeded all expectations by winning the Pulitzer accolade and ultimately selling over a million copies worldwide. First of all, it was questionable as to whether the book should really be considered a novel, consisting as it does of 13 individual stories with the incomparable Olive as the tenuous link connecting them. And then there was Olive herself, a disgruntled, straight-talking, difficult woman who exhibited all of the delicious flawed human truths of an ordinary woman that has so often been marginalised in literature. Flouting any anxiety regarding the “likability” of her protagonist, Strout flew in the face of convention and was awarded with the greatest prize of all; everyone fell in love with Olive, the invisible subject from literature who had been given a voice the world desperately wanted to hear.

The Irish Times
Please subscribe or sign in to continue reading.
The Irish Times

How can I keep reading?

You’ve reached an article that is only available to Irish Times subscribers.

Subscribe today and get the full picture for just €1 for the first month.

Subscribe No obligation, cancel any time.