samedi 4 août 2018

Chronique : Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout (Random House)

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, Olive Kitteridge offers profound insights into the human condition – its conflicts, its tragedies and joys, and the endurance it requires.
At times stern, at other times patient, at times perceptive, at other times in sad denial, Olive Kitteridge, a retired schoolteacher, deplores the changes in her little town of Crosby, Maine, and in the world at large, but she doesn’t always recognize the changes in those around her: a lounge musician haunted by a past romance; a former student who has lost the will to live; Olive’s own adult child, who feels tyrannized by her irrational sensitivities; and her husband, Henry, who finds his loyalty to his marriage both a blessing and a curse. 
As the townspeople grapple with their problems, mild and dire, Olive is brought to a deeper understanding of herself and her life – sometimes painfully, but always with ruthless honesty. Olive Kitteridge offers profound insights into the human condition – its conflicts, its tragedies and joys, and the endurance it requires.

My book review
This book was offered to me twice! I have finally read it!
It is a collection of short stories. It is the story of Oive Kitteridge, a smart and grumpy retired math teacher living in Maine, a very deep and complex character. She is in turns the main charcater, a secondary one or is only mentioned in passing, depending on the short stories.
She has an extremely acid sense of humour and is generally liked or disliked for the very same reason: her striking personality. She tends to understand people very well and this also makes some people fond of her.
I tremendously enjoyed all the stories. The style is divine. The unsaid, the subtlety, the narrative voice, the way the stories unfold including suspense, flashbacks and flash-forwards, make for a wonderful read!
The short stories deal with what life amounts to, first and foremost, in a very delicate and moving manner. Monty Python did it (The meaning of life) with humour, Elizabeth Strout does it with feeling.
Reading her stories, one understands that what really matters are relationships, all of them, and that they define us as human beings.
We discover how some couples overcome (or seem to overcome) infidelity, the difficulties of married life, how some deal (or do not deal, or try to deal) with childhood trauma, how they try and bear the death of loved ones… The topics include frailty, aging, grief and isolation, the evanescence of beauty, of life itself… and most importantly the fundamental loneliness of our life on earth.
Most short stories start in medias res. I love being plunged into a new universe and have to infer what happened to the characters to make them react that way.
The author makes us guess again and again the underlying message which is revealed towards the end.

Both a very deep and entertaining collection: a must read!

A few additional links
New York Times review
The Guardian

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