Seaside Book Club –
Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout is a Pulitzer prize winning novel from 2008 presented as a series of short stories about the lives of the inhabitants of the small town of Crosby, Maine. We meet Olive many times, seen through the eyes of, and encounters with, different characters over a number of years.
Overall the response to the book was positive; members wanted to read more titles by Elizabeth Strout. There was enthusiasm for the description and characterization, and general enjoyment of the writing. Opinion was divided over the character of Olive herself: some found her behaviour inexcusable, her personality unbearable, while others thought she represented the messy reality of people and our many sides. Either way, the group found the interconnected short stories an interesting way to construct a book. We learned a lot about Olive indirectly and our readers liked the incidental revealing through different perspectives as well as the way the stories really pulled you into that small town life. The feeling was that Elizabeth Strout is an excellent observer of human nature. She sees people with all their faults but writes about them with love and forgiveness. Olive Kitteridge raised the question of how much we can ever really know anyone, even ourselves.
Other questions from the group were: Do you have a favourite (or most appalling) Olive analogy, comeback or retort? What are Olive’s most redeeming characteristics? Why did Henry and Olive stay together? There was a discussion about small town life – the histories that are widely known (or thought to be known), labels that are hard to shake, average people with secrets, keeping up appearances, not showing too much of your heart to anyone. Several readers drew comparisons to Alice Munro. Anne Tyler and Anita Shreve were also mentioned.
We’re halfway through our Book Club year and I’m excited by a growing email list of members and regular readers who come to each meeting. Whether you are reading along at home or attending our monthly meetings I’m always happy to hear from you – this month I had a reading suggestion from another Peninsula Book Club; thank you and keep sending them in!
Book Club Q & A
Q How do you choose the books?
A The book selection is a little down to luck – each month the Sidney/North Saanich Library tries to get hold of a book club set for us to use. Availability is based on demand. So far we have had a choice between several titles each month, and have voted which one to use. Generally this will mean that people can leave the meeting with a copy of next month’s read. Book Club members can suggest titles they would be interested in reading from the VIRL book club sets list:
Q How do you structure the meeting?
A Members bring questions or discussion points with them, written down. These are put in a “hat” and drawn from to keep the discussion going. It leads to diverse questions and no need for anyone to feel self-conscious. The meeting is facilitated by Seaside Magazine’s Deborah and Sidney/North Saanich Library’s Virginia.
Q How do I stay up to date with Book Club happenings?
A Sign up for our mailing list and you’ll get meeting reminders by email. And follow us on Facebook to see everything that’s happening at Seaside Magazine!
The selection for our July meeting is A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra. The meeting will be held on July 12 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. upstairs at the Shoal Centre, Resthaven Drive.