Year of the Bookwormz: 2011

52 weeks. 2 friends. 1 challenge.

Book #10: LibraryLove February 11, 2010

Olive Kitteridge: The Unabridged Audiobook by Elizabeth Strout

Book description: At the edge of the continent, Crosby, Maine, may seem like nowhere, but seen through this brilliant writer’s eyes, it’s in essence the whole world, and the lives that are lived there are filled with all of the grand human drama — desire, despair, jealousy, hope, and love.  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 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 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.

I listened to this audio book twice all the way through. I wasn’t expecting the novel “in stories”, or mini vignettes but gave it a chance. Olive, retired schoolteacher, interacts with various people who are showcases in the 13 stories that make up OK, in Crosby, Maine. I was feeling a bit confused and disjointed, as were many of my girlfriends who are also reading OK. Considering this book won the Pulizer Prize, I felt it deserved another go round. With 40” of snow on the ground, much baking, shoveling, housework, and dog grooming afforded me the time to give this a second chance and listen as I went about my daily tasks while being confined to the house due to the white out conditions! And you know what? I found myself growing attached to Olive in all her grumpy glory.  OK offers insights into the human condition — its conflicts, its tragedies and joys, and the endurance it requires through stories about her fellow Crosby-ians that each include Olive in some form or another. The best illustration of Olive’s endurance is when her husband is confined by an injury and Olive sticks by his side when an unfortunate turn of events occurs. Classic Olive: “We’ve lost weight, not eating our cheese and crackers every night”, she says to her husband.

She’s overbearing, brash, quite outspoken, but she’s tenderhearted too. As the book progressed, so did Olive’s self-awareness. She began to recognize that although we can’t/won’t like everyone, we need to make an effort to understand them and where they’re coming from. Specifically, when she talks about how she always remembers her past students, thinking of them fondly, as they’re now grown, living their lives as she encounters them about town. I enjoyed Strout showcasing her ability to write vibrantly and beautifully about a mediocre character in a mediocre town. Every character is flawed, and the book is meant to showcase these character flaws, more so in Olive than anyone else. Olive, although in some of the 13 stories, is only barely mentioned/included, she’s essential to the story as a whole. I felt luke-warm about this book despite my deep desire to love it. You can’t force it and you also can’t absolutely love every book you read. It’s like eating cupcakes 3 meals a day. Sounds nice but the actual practice would lend itself to boredom. It’s important to recognize what you like and don’t like in different books to grow as a reader and as a person. So I’m glad I gave OK a second listen. I would have preferred the book be written in narrative form.

2/5 stars for the construction and plot line of the book

5/5 stars to Strout for her writing ability

10 down, 42 to go…

In progress- Kabul Beauty School

Xoxo, LibraryLove

Ps- Have a romantic Valentine’s Day weekend! My husband is off this weekend (yay)! We’ll be out and about enjoying our time together. Looking forward to our adventures downtown now that the artic tundra snow is melting, including a romantic dinner at the 5-star restaurant where we had our first date 9.5 years ago, which also happens to have our caricature hanging on their wall!

Love the one your with and please consider donating used books to your library. It’s a tax write off!


Book #9: LibraryLove

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

Book description~ January 1946: London is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she’s never met, a native of the island of Guernsey, who has come across her name written inside a book by Charles Lamb.
As Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, Juliet is drawn into the world of this man and his friends — and what a wonderfully eccentric world it is. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society — born as a spur-of-the-moment alibi when its members were discovered breaking curfew by the Germans occupying their island — boasts a charming, funny, deeply human cast of characters, from pig farmers to phrenologists, literature lovers all.
Juliet begins a remarkable correspondence with the society’s members, learning about their island, their taste in books, and the impact the recent German occupation has had on their lives. Captivated by their stories, she sets sail for Guernsey, and what she finds will change her forever.

This is the first book, written in epistolary exchange format, I’ve ever read.  For those of you unfamiliar, epistolary means the book is written through an exchange of letters. Typically, a book is written in narrative form. TGLPPPS was such a fun and unique twist. Authors Shaffer and Barrows used the exchange of letters between characters involved in the story, to insert the reader smack dab into the psyche and inner most thoughts of the Guernsey Islanders. I’m sad the book ended because I want more! Especially with Dawsey’s new found outgoing personality which left me so curious to see what their lives together would hold. I laughed, I cried, and I was completely drawn into Juliet’s world. Her quick whit and charm cracked me UP! She’s just the kind of person I’d love to add to my social network and invite to dinner. I give her much credit for taking such initiative to even want to take on the beast of raising Kit as her own, much less leaving London behind, when she just planned to visit the Guernsey Island to get inspired for her second book.  I also loved what a homage to Elizabeth this story became. She was so integral in everyone’s lives~ of course she should be the focus of Juliet’s second work!

My one criticism is that I’m a bit disappointed we didn’t get to see more of the Dawsey/Juliet relationship explored after the “big day”. But that’s just me being selfish isn’t it? =) I am looking forward to reading The Recipe Club, as it’s another selection written in epistolary format back and forth between friends who share recipes. I really enjoyed learning about Juliet, Sidney and Isola through their letters to one another and think it to be such a unique way to tell a story and hook the reader. My favorite scene is when Juliet’s boat arrives at the port, she in her red cape, about to embark on the rest of her life’s journey on the Island of Guernsey.

This is my 3rd historical fiction reading in a row. The Help took place in the 60s, Keeping the House took place in the 50s, and TGLPPPS took place in the post-WWII era of the late 40s. I’ve enjoyed going “back in time” and definitely caught the historical fiction bug.

Thanks to a very dear friend for “gently coercing” me to read this immediately. xoxo.

5/5 Stars

9 down, 43 to go…

On deck, Kabul Beauty School

Xoxo, LibraryLove