As in a cubist painting, we observe Olive Kitteridge from lots of subjective points of view and different distances, as if we were taking a picture of her zooming with a powerful camera. However hateful and sullen we may find her at the beginning, sometimes almost rude and disrespectful of the fellow man, at the end Olive will be one of us, and her microcosm will look like ours, with our neighbours, friends, relatives, acquaintances, colleagues or simple local residents.
In the calm and rural Maine, Olive was a maths teacher, more feared than respected, just for her apparently detached and standoffish attitude. She is the wife of a good man, friendly and beloved, the chemist Henry, who often bears in silence his wife's outbursts even in front of their son, Christopher, a silent, introvert and not very loving boy who will become a distant son, more interested in his own businesses than in keeping in contact with his elderly parents.
Under different aspects and with dramatic depths and features probably only hinted, but very real and tangible, the events of Olive's family bring to our mind the Lamberts of The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen. The relationships, moulded in reciprocal silence and detachment, and nourished by years of low head and carelessness, become chronic when age proceeds, parents become fragile and stubborn elderly people and their children turn into selfish adults, too busy and probably still hurt by past incommunicability.
The same happens among Olive, her husband and her son, while around them the small community of Crosby lives, shaken by what Olive herself defines big explosions (marriages, children, illnesses and so on) and little explosions (a smiling salesman, an unexpected kindness).
Elizabeth Strout writes well. She depicts in few traits people, stories, places, gestures, all with a great skill. The tales which compose this book are all like pearls in a necklace, they all have their own identity, a completeness and a meaning that few authors can give to this short literary genre, and they leave the reader satisfied and without the usual disappointment caused by the unfinished state or the superficiality of what they read. All the tales, all the characters (among them sooner or later Olive's stout figure shows off) are permeated by a sort of wrong-footed melancholy for passing time, for the feelings - which are never sugary, even when they are deep and sincere - and for daily routine made of tulip bulbs to plant, shopping to do and dogs to take out.
Olive is a bit like all of us, when we are rude and don't want to but we fear to let ourselves go; when we would like that the affection we feel could be perceived under our surface; when a teardrop or a smile escape and we turn aside to hide ourselves from the world.show more
by Claudia Rispoli