Sunday, April 26, 2009

Pulitzer Winner

Why Did Elizabeth Strout Win?

I had read the last two winners of the Pulitzer Prize for fiction before they won - no literature bandwagon jumper was I. So when Elizabeth Strout won this year's award for her collection of linked stories, Olive Kitteridge, I was a bit disappointed that I hadn't read the book: after all, it had been sitting on my to-read shelf for the last two months. (I'm, obviously, easily disappointed.)

The Pulitzer winner pushed Strout's book to the top of the heap and I read in a couple of sittings this weekend. 

My verdict? It's good, yes; it's well-written, no doubt; but it feels ordinary at the same time. I'm not sure Strout takes any real risks. I guess putting a supposedly unlikeable character at the centre of many of the stories could be seen as a risk but I didn't hate Olive Kitteridge; perhaps I know too many people like her.

Where's my evidence for my less-than-impressed views? That would take a legitimate attempt at reviewing Olive Kitteridge; bit lazy to do that. Instead, know this: there are worse novels than this year's Pulitzer winner and there are better ones. No matter who wins any year, this will always be true.


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