Friday, June 11, 2010

Olive Kitteridge - Elizabeth Strout

At our local Co-op they have three big bookshelves that are used for a book exchange. I skimmed it a few times but never actually brought any books or saw any I was particularly interested in. The a few weeks ago I say Olive Kitteridge (as well as a Val McDermid novel) on the shelf and had to take it. I promised myself I would bring in two to replace them the next time I came in…..I haven’t yet but promise to next week when I do my next grocery shop. I had heard really good things about this novel. I book friend of mine in Korea loved it so it has been on my list for a while. It took me two days to read it – quite a shorter amount of time then it has taken me to read anything lately. says, “Heart-wrenching, penetrating portrait of ordinary coastal Mainers living lives of quiet grief intermingled with flashes of human connection. The opening Pharmacy focuses on terse, dry junior high-school teacher Olive Kitteridge and her gregarious pharmacist husband, Henry, both of whom have survived the loss of a psychologically damaged parent, and both of whom suffer painful attractions to co-workers. Their son, Christopher, takes center stage in A Little Burst, which describes his wedding in humorous, somewhat disturbing detail, and in Security, where Olive, in her 70s, visits Christopher and his family in New York. Strout's fiction showcases her ability to reveal through familiar details—the mother-of-the-groom's wedding dress, a grandmother's disapproving observations of how her grandchildren are raised—the seeds of tragedy. Themes of suicide, depression, bad communication, aging and love, run through these stories, none more vivid or touching than Incoming Tide, where Olive chats with former student Kevin Coulson as they watch waitress Patty Howe by the seashore, all three struggling with their own misgivings about life.”

I was surprised that I liked this book so much because it is basically short stories tied together by this one woman, Olive Kitteridge. I usually hate short stories. Actually hate is not the most accurate word because as soon as I see a book is short stories I don’t even bother with it – even if they are by my favorite author. There is something about them that just bothers me. I love the length of novels and the meat to them; I don’t feel I get that with short stories.

This book was sad. There were elements of it that broke my heart and characters that lead such a lonely life that I found it hard to read. I loved that sometimes Olive Kitteridge was a seen presence in the novel and other times it was just her words that stayed with the character. I liked Olive’s character; she was hard-headed and a little mean sometimes but you saw her through her own eyes as well as other characters and got to know her heart and the life she lead. You got to see her heart break when she lost not one but two loves.

I liked this book. It was a good read, not really light but somewhere in the middle.

Rating - 3

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Island Beneath The Sea - Isabel Allende

Once again I have been buying more books then I have time to read. I was taking a client in for an appointment last week and realized that I would have over an hour to wait for her. It was a hot sunny day and I had no book! I went to the local bookstore and picked out 3 new books (I had a really hard time picking one – so I got three!). As soon as I saw Isabel Allende’s newest novel I had to get it. I adore Isabel Allende. Her books make me feel wonderful and make me want to travel Latin America. Now from reading Island Beneath The Sea I really want to travel to the Dominican Republic and back to New Orleans.

Here is the synopsis from “Zarité, called Tété, is born into slavery in the colony of Saint-Domingue, where enslaved Africans are worked to death by the thousands, and European men prey on women of color. So it is with Tété and her “master,” the deeply conflicted plantation owner Toulouse Valmorain, who relies on her for everything from coerced sex to caring for his demented first wife, his legitimate son, and their off-the-record daughter. When the slave uprising that gives birth to the free black republic of Haiti erupts, Toulouse, Tété, and the children flee to Cuba, then to New Orleans. In a many-faceted plot, Allende animates irresistible characters authentic in their emotional turmoil and pragmatic adaptability. She also captures the racial, sexual, and entrepreneurial dynamics of each society in sensuous detail while masterfully dramatizing the psychic wounds of slavery”.

I loved this book. For starters the cover is beautiful and makes you want to read it every time you look at it. I love books that have amazing covers – it makes all the difference when deciding what to buy and what not to. This book is wonderfully written. It is set in Haiti (before it was Haiti) and is centered around a slave named Zarite. In the first page of the book we discover that she is now free – as are her children – and the book tells the story of how she became free.

There are some amazing characters in this book and some characters that I just hated. This always happens in books that discuss slavery. In modern times it is hard to even imagine people feeling that others can be owned and are less then human (even though in some countries it still happens – especially when looking at domestic workers brought from developing countries and trafficking for prostitution). My favorite character was a tie between Violette and Sancho. They both had big personalities and were kind hearted people who knew what they wanted.

This book made me feel the heat of the tropics and the sadness that Zarite felt when her child was taken away. To make me feel that, Isabel Allende wrote with beauty and with knowledge. I would definitely recommend this novel to everyone I know!

Rating - 4