Archive for November, 2013

Olive Kitteridge

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout won the Pulitzer Prize. It’s the American equivalent of the Canadian Giller, and to some extent the very famous British Booker Prize, which by the way, will now allow US writers to compete for their award. This is actually why I decided to give this book a go. There was a bit of a hubub over allowing Americans to compete. Some said they will take over and dominate the award. Others disagreed. Anyhoo… long story short, I thought this was a great book and I was glad I decided to give it a read. This novel is a collection of short stories that are all connected. They take place in the small community of Crosby Maine, and while Olive Kitteridge is the focus of the book, she’s not always the focus of each chapter. Sometimes her name appears in only a sentence or two, but the connection is there. Sound weird? It isn’t. It works. Olive is a big woman (with size 10 feet), a retired school teacher who was loved by some students and feared by others, and has a son who ends up breaking her and placid hubby Henry’s heart. She’s a bit gruff and standoffish, yet can melt into a puddle when confronted with a young girl with anorexia and leap into action when she spots a tragedy in the making. While the world swirls around her, Olive carrys on trying to cope with ever changing times and people. It’s a wonderful collection of stories (there are 13 chapters) and I this is high praise from someone who doesn’t read short stories. I liked the book so much I’ve gone in search of Strout’s latest, The Burgess Boys, and can’t wait to give it a try.

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The Lowland

The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri is a fantastic book. It was on the short list for the Booker Prize… so was A Tale for the Time Being – another one of my recent reads that I really loved. (I can’t believe there were 2 books on the list that I like, usually there are none.) Anyway… Subhash and Udayan are brothers, born 15 months apart, in a Calcutta neighbourhood where one is often mistaken for the other. But when they are older that all changes. Udayan, the younger, is drawn into the Naxalite movement, a rebellion that intends to eradicate inequality and poverty in India. Subhash, the more conservative, wants nothing to do with this organization, and leaves his home to study scientific research on the east coast of the US in Rhode Island. When Subhash gets shocking news about his brother he returns home, hoping to help pick up the pieces of his shattered family. This also includes helping Udayan’s wife Gauri, whom Subhash has never met. The story unfolds with heartbreak and joy throughout the years, in India and the United States, as their lives are forever changed. This is a family saga steeped in history, geography, politics, and science, with intense emotion that is beautifuly written. It really does deserve to be on the Booker short list. I loved it.

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