Olive Kitteridge is an extraordinary book. I had to read the first story quite a few times to get into the characters and get what Strout wanted to do here. The writing is gorgeous. It must have required considerable effort and discipline to compile the selection of related and yet unrelated stories - all of which involve either Olive Kitteridge or people in her community in a small town in Maine - and yet keep the tone of the stories so even, so understated.
There were two aspects of Olive Kitteridge that fascinated me most - and that are inevitably what makes or breaks this book for me:
For one, the book focuses on people in the later stages of life. Mostly. It was great to read about characters who were not going through any rites of passage or growth.
Hand in hand with this, however, came a sort of bleak realism that made it sometimes difficult to read the stories. It was the sort of realism that does not promise happy endings, and acts as a reminder that reality is often far removed from the hope and dignity which is lent to characters in stories.
I was not sure at first whether I liked or disliked this book, and to some extent I still am not sure about this, but I am glad I have read it.