Elizabeth Strout - Olive Kitteridge
Having recently read My Name is Lucy Barton by New England writer, Elizabeth Strout, I turned to another by her, Olive Kitteridge, which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 2009.
Strout excels in characterisation through concision. Just a two-word expression by a character, which crops up through the text, is enough for this reader to more fully imagine what makes them tick.
Olive Kitteridge is the type of character people love to hate, or hate to love. She is, on the surface, brusque, no-nonsense, plain-speaking, forthright. And she is, to a large degree, the same beneath the surface. A former 'math' teacher, each chapter introduces us to former pupils, neighbours, son, former daughter-in-law, and local shopkeepers, as they each contend with the struggles and strifes of life in a small New England community by the sea, (and the disapproval of 'the summer people') and Olive's interactions with each. The New Yorker recently featured a profile of Strout, by Ariel Levy, entitled 'The Long Homecoming, which emphasised her New England upbringing. She apparently hates being referred to as a Maine writer, but then admits to Maine being part of her DNA. Her writing bears testament to the old adage 'write what you know', in a way that matches the characteristics of the place that reared her.