Thursday, November 4, 2010

Review of the Day: Olive Kitteridge

Olive Kitteridge is Elizabeth Strout’s collection of short-stories-as-novel that won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize. The stories are set in the small town of Crosby, Maine, and crabby Olive Kitteridge makes an appearance – even if brief – in each of them.

The stories are well executed, creative, and peopled with varied but realistic characters. Individually, many of them are emotionally striking. Strout can really get to the nub of a story.

The problem is that as a collection, the stories are exhausting. Crosby may not be the bloodbath that Cabot Cove is, but there are plenty of suicides, grisly murders, violent and petty crimes, adultery, abuse, sickness, brutal deaths, and dysfunction to dampen any reader’s spirits. None of the characters are happy and there is precious little humor to leaven the depressing tales.


Caroline Bookbinder (Carin liked it much more than I did and named it her 2009 Book of the Year)

(If you would like your review listed here, please leave a comment with a link and I will add it.)


This was my Pulitzer pick for the Battle of the Prizes, American Version challenge.  I read Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann -- another collection of short-stories-as-novel -- for my National Award pick. The challenge runs through the end of January 2011, so there is still time to sign up.

I am working my way through all the Pulitzer winners.  For others doing the same, please visit my main Pulitzer Prize post and leave a comment with a link to your related posts.


  1. Loved the link to Cabot Cove :) especially the part about the Smurf village :):):)

  2. I'm a little bummed you didn't love this! Yes, there are a lot of bad things, but that's over 40 years (or so). And I think a lot of bad stuff does happen in the world. But yes, if you're looking for a light or uplifting read, this isn't the one! Here's my review:

  3. Peppermint -- Coastal Maine can be a dangerous place!

    Carin -- You are exactly right in saying I didn't "love" it, because I did like it. I don't mind serious books, and tend to pick them over light-hearted. But this one seemed a little stunted -- to the point of being unrealistic -- in its almost complete elimination of happy people or humor.

    Thanks for passing on your review. I will list it for sure -- give people an alternate view.

  4. I am finally motivated to get my hands on this book. Also loved the Cabot Cove reference :)

  5. We're going to read this in our book group.

  6. Jane -- She is a great writer and it is definitely worth reading.

    Sheila -- It is a good book club choice. There is a lot in it to talk about, that's for sure.

  7. Interesting review! That certainly does sound like a heavy, rather misanthropic book -- I'm not surprised, then, that it would win the Pulitzer :)

    The Blue Bookcase

  8. I didn't realise this was a collection of stories, I thought it was just one story.

  9. ConnieGirl -- Good point about the Pulitzer! Although, I think the National award is worse in that regard. Sometimes the Pulitzer tips towards popularity.

    Vivienne -- It looks like short stories as novels are popular these days, at least with the prize committees. Let the Great World Spin is the same kind of thing. I am not a short story fan as a rule, so I prefer them to connect into a novel. But I prefer novels above all.

  10. I've had this in my TBR pile for awhile. I was thinking if it was a Pulitzer it might be a bit of a downer. You have confirmed my thoughts. Thanks for the review, I'll be prepared! :)

  11. I liked this book quite a bit (much more than you, I think!). Here is my review.

  12. I finally read it, and as you said there was no humor, lots of depression. My review is here:
    Link it up is you want!


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