“Olive, Again” by Elizabeth Strout
The original publication of this novel was the perfect excuse for me to correct an omission in my reading. It is a strange thing about running a bookshop that sometimes you miss something you have wanted to read. There are always new temptations!
Elizabeth Strout’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel “Olive Kitteridge” was exactly that. A copy had been sitting in a pile to be read for far longer than I intended. I had enjoyed her two more recent novels, so that when her sequel “Olive Again” came up that was the perfect justification to address that oversight. The two go together so well, immersing myself in Olive over two volumes was a rare treat.
For those who have read the first sampling I recommend succumbing to the second as we learn so much more about Olive, this unusual, retired Maths teacher, as the years pass on by. The stories, as in many ways that is what both of these novels are, recount the events in Olive’s life, giving vignettes on her, her husband Henry, son Christopher and the neighbourhood and locals of Crosby, Maine; a fictitious town with a great mixture of events and odd balls!
The writing is smooth storytelling, well written, readable and enjoyable. The town of Crosby comes alive, [and if travel was only permitted], a destination you would include in any visit to Maine, if only it were there! The seasons are described as we observe Olive’s life in retirement and her second marriage; all related over a period of several years. However Olive’s life is not the only one we witness. In both books she appears as a character in chapters about other residents, sometimes being mentioned only in passing.
Like any town, let alone an American one, Crosby has its fair share of unusual characters and households, some of the visitors are also very individualistic. All of these blend together to make Olive’s unusual approach to life and to the people she meets, or has taught, come alive. There are odd moments of quiet humour which will bring a smile or a chuckle. This author has a great ability to entertain her readers both by storyline and with an ability to please her followers.