Today, it’s a very special book review as it’s all about Elizabeth Strout’s beautiful and wonderful sequel to Olive Kitteridge, Olive Again.
I’m sure this is a book that has been longly anticipated to come out as Strout’s Olive Kitteridge is a well-loved book, and for good reason too. But now she’s back with Olive, Again and this is just a wonderful, brilliant book. But first, here’s the synopsis:
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.
I’ve only recently read Olive Kitteridge but I was enchanted by it. I read Strout’s My Name is Lucy Barton a few months ago and completely loved her writing in that one. But for me, there is something really special in her writing in these two books. She writes so beautifully about the simplest things, some things that seem so normal and mundane but she manages to squeeze every last bit out of it. Her writing feels so wonderful for this time of the year – the cold and wet evenings, curl up with something warm and open this beautiful book and be lost in these stories and these characters. At times, her writing is so beautiful you feel that you are right there in Olive’s living room with her.
I loved Olive Kitteridge but for me, this sequel, Olive, Again, is even better. I felt that the character of Olive felt more “real” (if that makes sense) – perhaps it’s because she’s older, perhaps a bit more vulnerable, letting her guard down. I also thought the individual stories in the book flew better, too. They felt more connected to the overall story and I think that’s also due to the fact there was more Olive in them. There are also echoes from the first novel that will please fans.
“It was a glorious autumn. The leaves clung to the trees and were more vivid than they had been in years. People said this to one another, and it was true. And the sun shone down on all of it, day after day. It rained mostly at night, and the nights were cold, and the days were not too cold, but they were not warm. The world sparkled, and the yellows and reds, and orange and pale pinks, were just splendid for anyone driving down the road out to the bay. Olive could see this without driving; from her front door she saw the woods, and every morning when she opened the door she was aware of the beauty of the world.”
Strout’s writing is stronger than ever. It is witty, clever, lyrical, layered, emotional, hilarious, humane. You can just tell Strout knows her characters inside out and she is in control of everything – no word, no sentence is wasted. She really is a master at her craft. The same themes from the first one are covered here, too. From family, death, grief, love, relationships, mental health, loneliness, and so much more. Strout takes these themes and writes them with care and delicacy.
Strout shows us all that it’s the little things that matter. To hold our loved ones closer and closer and to live your life to the best that you can. And just like Olive, to occasionally look up and see the beautiful nature, the beautiful sun. Just look up.
This is an absolute triumph and I raced through it. Even better than the first, Strout’s writing stronger than ever and Olive is more Olive than before. Will make you laugh, weep, laugh, and weep so much more. I hope we’ll have another slice of Olive to make it a trilogy, in the future. But again, what a triumph. That’s how you do a sequel that works and flows from the previous one. Can’t wait to read it all over again.
Have you read Olive, Again? What did you think? Are you a fan of Elizabeth Strout? Let me know in the comments!