#BookReview Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout

Olive, AgainAbout the Book

Olive, Again follows the blunt, contradictory yet deeply loveable Olive Kitteridge as she grows older, navigating the second half of her life as she comes to terms with the changes – sometimes welcome, sometimes not – in her own existence and in those around her.

Olive adjusts to her new life with her second husband, challenges her estranged son and his family to accept him, experiences loss and loneliness, witnesses the triumphs and heartbreaks of her friends and neighbours in the small coastal town of Crosby, Maine – and, finally, opens herself to new lessons about life.

Format: ebook (304 pages)                  Publisher: Viking
Publication date: 31st October 2019 Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Short Stories

Purchase Links*
Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.com | Hive (supporting UK bookshops)
*links provided for convenience, not as part of any affiliate programme

Find Olive, Again (Olive Kitteridge, #2) on Goodreads


My Review

Olive, Again follows the same structure as Olive Kitteridge, a series of linked vignettes featuring the inhabitants of Crosby, Maine, in which Olive herself features to varying degrees.  Sometimes she has merely a walk-on part, sometimes she plays a more significant role in a story and occasionally she’s the main focus but in every case there’s a meaning attached to her appearance that may only become evident to the reader later.  Events in the book unfold over a number of years, during which the reader witnesses major events in Olive’s life.

Those who’ve read Olive Kitteridge will be pleased to know that Olive is her same outspoken, honest, slightly irascible self.  She’s someone who doesn’t suffer fools gladly, as exemplified by her reaction to the baby shower she attends – and which of us hasn’t been at a social event where we’ve longed to have the courage to say the sort of things Olive does! But she also has an uncanny instinct for what others need, demonstrated in -for me – one of the most moving stories, ‘February Light’, where Olive is the only person who seems to know the right thing to say to a dying woman.  As one character remarks, “Olive, you’re the kind of person people want to talk to.”

Olive, Again sees Olive in self-reflective mood as well, wondering if there are things in her life she could have done better, especially in regard to her relationship with her son, Christopher, and his family.   Relationships between parents and children is one of the recurring themes of the book which also explores ageing and how to face the challenges life brings. Along with those mentioned above, some of my other favourite stories were ‘Helped’, ‘The Poet’ and the final story, ‘Friend’.

Olive, Again is by turns tender, funny, heartbreaking and life-affirming.  It demonstrates the observational skills for which the author has become rightly renowned.

I received an advance review copy courtesy of Viking via NetGalley

In three words: Moving, acutely-observed, assured

Try something similar: Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout (read my review here)

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Elizabeth StroutAbout the Author

Elizabeth Strout was born in Portland, Maine, and grew up in small towns in Maine and New Hampshire.  From a young age she was drawn to writing things down, keeping notebooks that recorded the quotidian details of her days.  She was also drawn to books, and spent hours of her youth in the local library lingering among the stacks of fiction.  During the summer months of her childhood she played outdoors, either with her brother, or, more often, alone, and this is where she developed her deep and abiding love of the physical world: the seaweed covered rocks along the coast of Maine, and the woods of New Hampshire with its hidden wildflowers.

During her adolescent years, Strout continued writing avidly, having conceived of herself as a writer from early on.  She read biographies of writers, and was already studying – on her own – the way American writers, in particular, told their stories.  Poetry was something she read and memorized; by the age of sixteen was sending out stories to magazines.  Her first story was published when she was twenty-six.

Strout attended Bates College, graduating with a degree in English in 1977.  Two years later, she went to Syracuse University College of Law, where she received a law degree along with a Certificate in Gerontology.  She worked briefly for Legal Services, before moving to New York City, where she became an adjunct in the English Department of Borough of Manhattan Community College.  By this time she was publishing more stories in literary magazines and Redbook and Seventeen.  Juggling the needs that came with raising a family and her teaching schedule, she found a few hours each day to work on her writing. (Bio: author website, photo credit: Goodreads author page)

Connect with Elizabeth
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WWW Wednesdays – 30th October ‘19

WWWWednesdays

Hosted by Taking on a World of Words, this meme is all about the three Ws:

  • What are you currently reading?
  • What did you recently finish reading?
  • What do you think you’ll read next?

Why not join in too?  Leave a comment with your link at Taking on a World of Words and then go blog hopping!


Currently reading

I managed to get a few books finished but writing the reviews…well, that’s another job to be done in the next few days. I have some blog tour commitments next week but then I’m hoping to move on to my reading list for Nonfiction November and I’m giving myself a break from blog tours in December (well, almost).

The Tide Between UsThe Tide Between Us by Olive Collins (e-book, review copy courtesy of the author)

1821: After the landlord of Lugdale Estate in Kerry is assassinated, young Art O’Neill’s innocent father is hanged and Art is deported to the cane fields of Jamaica as an indentured servant. On Mangrove Plantation he gradually acclimatises to the exotic country and unfamiliar customs of the African slaves, and achieves a kind of contentment. Then the new heirs to the plantation arrive.

His new owner is Colonel Stratford-Rice from Lugdale Estate, the man who hanged his father. Art must overcome his hatred to survive the harsh life of a slave and live to see the eventual emancipation which liberates his coloured children. Eventually he is promised seven gold coins when he finishes his service, but he doubts his master will part with the coins.

One hundred years later in Ireland, a skeleton is discovered beneath a fallen tree on the grounds of Lugdale Estate. By its side is a gold coin minted in 1870. Yseult, the owner of the estate, watches as events unfold, fearful of the long-buried truths that may emerge about her family’s past and its links to the slave trade. As the body gives up its secrets, Yseult realises she too can no longer hide.

The House That Alice BuiltThe House That Alice Built by Chris Penhall (ebook, courtesy of Ruby Fiction)

Home is where the heart is …

Alice Dorothy Matthews is sensible. Whilst her best friend Kathy is living it up in Portugal and her insufferable ex Adam is travelling the world, Alice is working hard to pay for the beloved London house she has put her heart and soul into renovating.

But then a postcard from Buenos Aires turns Alice’s life upside down. One very unsensible decision later and she is in Cascais, Portugal, and so begins her lesson in ‘going with the flow’; a lesson that sees her cat-sitting, paddle boarding, dancing on top of bars and rediscovering her artistic talents.

But perhaps the most important part of the lesson for Alice is that you don’t always need a house to be at home.

The Photographer of the LostThe Photographer of the Lost by Caroline Scott (eARC, courtesy of Simon & Schuster)

1921 – Families are desperately trying to piece together the fragments of their broken lives. While many survivors of the Great War have been reunited with their loved ones, Edie’s husband Francis has not come home. He is considered ‘missing in action’, but when Edie receives a mysterious photograph taken by Francis in the post, hope flares. And so she begins to search.

Harry, Francis’s brother, fought alongside him. He too longs for Francis to be alive, so they can forgive each other for the last things they ever said. Both brothers shared a love of photography and it is that which brings Harry back to the Western Front. Hired by grieving families to photograph gravesites, as he travels through battle-scarred France gathering news for British wives and mothers, Harry also searches for evidence of his brother.

And as Harry and Edie’s paths converge, they get closer to a startling truth.


Recently finished

Chanels RivieraChanel’s Riviera: The Cote d’Azur in Peace and War, 1930-1944 by Anne De Courcy (audio book)

Far from worrying about the onset of war, the burning question on the French Riviera in 1938 was whether one should curtsey to the Duchess of Windsor.

Featuring a sparkling cast of historical figures, writers and artists including Winston Churchill, Daisy Fellowes, Salvador Dalí, the Windsors, Aldous Huxley and Edith Wharton – and the enigmatic Coco Chanel at its heart – Chanel’s Riviera is a sparkling account of a period where such deep extremes of luxury and terror had never before been experienced.

From the glamour of the pre-war parties and casinos, to Robert Streitz’s secret wireless transmitter in the basement of La Pausa – Chanel’s villa that he created – while Chanel had her German lover to stay during the war, Chanel’s Riviera explores the fascinating world of the Cote d’Azur elite in the 1930s and 1940s, enriched with original research that brings the lives of both rich and poor, protected and persecuted, to vivid life. (Review to follow)

Olive, AgainOlive, Again by Elizabeth Strout (eARC, courtesy of Viking and NetGalley)

The long-awaited follow-up to the Pulitzer Prize-winning, No.1 New York Times bestselling Olive Kitteridge

Olive, Again will pick up where Olive Kitteridge left off, following the next decade of Olive’s life – through a second marriage, an evolving relationship with her son, and encounters with a cast of memorable characters in the seaside town of Crosby, Maine. (Review to follow)

The House of the Four WindsThe House of the Four Winds by John Buchan (hardcover)

The House of the Four Winds is a novel of adventure by John Buchan, first published in 1935. It is a Ruritanian romance, and the last of his three Dickson McCunn books.

The novel is set in the fictional Central European country of Evallonia in the early 1930s. It concerns the involvement of some Scottish visitors in the overthrow of a corrupt republic and the restoration of the monarchy. It is a sequel to Castle Gay, in which some Evallonians visited Scotland on a secret mission two years before the start of this novel. (Review to follow)


What Cathy (will) Read Next

Christmas at LadywellChristmas at Ladywell by Nicola Slade (eARC, courtesy of Crooked Cat Books)

A time for spilling secrets…

Having refurbished her inherited house and upcycled her whole life in the process, Freya – now happily married to Patrick, and with a small child – has to transform her tiny stone barn into a romantic hideaway for a mystery guest who is also looking for change. With Christmas only a week away, things don’t go according to plan…

In the past, old uncertainties are resolved when a woman seeks the truth of a legend on Christmas Eve and confesses to a deception; a Tudor wife listens to a story that must never be repeated and is given a precious relic that must never be displayed; and in the early nineteenth century, an old woman tells a younger one the story of the hares at Ladywell.

Past and present are only a whisper apart when Freya learns of an astonishing discovery that will make Ladywell famous, but meanwhile her house is full of unexpected visitors, she has a turkey to cook – and a very special secret of her own that must be told.