2008, 270 p
Thank heavens. After reading two stodgy books that cried out for the slash of an editor’s pen, here was a collection of short stories with crystal clear writing and every bit of fat decisively cut away. I’d starting reading a review of the recent series of Olive Kitteridge showing on television until I realized that it was Pay TV, which we do not have and will not have. It sounded like something I thought I would enjoy, but given that I wouldn’t be seeing it any time soon, I stopped reading the review after a few sentences.
So I was surprised to find that it was set in Maine, and not England, which for some reason I assumed (from the rather stodgy name ‘Olive Kitteridge’ perhaps? It sounds English to me). Nor was it set in the 1940s, which I also assumed. It is a series of short stories and Olive appears in each one of them- sometimes as the main character, sometimes just as a walk-on figure in the background. Olive is a large, acerbic, retired teacher who has lived in her small town for many years and taught mathematics to every young person in town. She’s brusque and clumsy, and you can see why her son has distanced himself from her and why people don’t really like her very much. Some of the stories are set in the near-present (9/11 has already occurred) and the stories skip around in time. Nonetheless, they’ve been well compiled with a scene in the opening story matching a similar scene in the last story in the book- a pleasing sense of symmetry.
These are short stories as I really like them (yes, Whispering Gums, I LIKE them!) with connections between them, but standing alone as well. Perfect length- about twenty pages, and just enough of them.
It’s absolutely just right.
Except for the cover. What is it with women’s backs? Stock images, no doubt. But this cover had absolutely nothing to do with any of these stories.
My rating: a resounding 10/10. Loved it.