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I received an ARC of this book via Harper Collins UK and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
OLIVE is many things.
Knows her own mind.
It’s ok that she’s still figuring it all out, navigating her world without a compass. But life comes with expectations, there are choices to be made, boxes to tick and – sometimes – stereotypes to fulfil. And when her best friends’ lives start to branch away towards marriage and motherhood, leaving the path they’ve always followed together, Olive starts to question her choices – because life according to Olive looks a little bit different.
Almost immediately, this book gave me Dolly Alderton vibes (it reminded me of her upcoming novel Ghosts). Like Ghosts, this is a sensitive portrayal of adult life and how the people closest to you can (at times) feel far away.
The book follows Olive, a woman hurting towards her mid-thirties. Reeling off a breakup from her long-term boyfriend, she needs her friends. Yet her friends are going in their own directions focusing on families, children or wanting children. Usually these narratives purely focus on relationships and children being the goal, but – through Olive – we see that some people don’t want that.
Though Olive was sometimes irritating, I feel that every woman will relate to her in one way or another. She was funny, honest and vulnerable. I may only be 22 (and could potentially change my mind) but, at least for now, I don’t see children in my future. I love helping mind my nephews but I’ll admit I’m more than happy to give them back immediately. Aside from that, dolls have been my only experience of motherhood and – considering the fact that most of them ended up naked and discarded somewhere (and limbless, on one occasion, thanks to a fight with my older brother!) – I can’t say I feel cut out for it. Gannon’s change of narrative is refreshing and I definitely feel like somebody will need to read it (and will feel better having read it).
Not only did I like Olive’s character but Gannon also manages to make the other characters in the book (Olive’s ex-boyfriend, her friends, and every one else we encounter) just as likeable. I loved Olive’s group of friends and how they shaped and changed the course of the narrative.
I loved the fact that each chapter focused on an event in the past or in the present. It showed the people around Olive changing, and the reasons why these changes were happening, whilst Olive’s thoughts about motherhood remained the same. At first it makes you realise how alone Olive is but, as you read on, you realise that this feeling of loneliness affects more characters than you’d think.
Another thing I liked was how Gannon placed quotes from real people in amongst her chapters, just to show that alternative feelings towards being a mother isn’t out of the ordinary.
My only complaint was that the ending fell flat for me. I wasn’t unhappy with it exactly, it just felt less exciting than the flashbacks to Olive’s earlier years and the inner dilemma she faces throughout the book.
Saying that, Olive is an interesting and important debut novel for every person growing up with uncertain feelings in an uncertain world.
Olive will be published on 23rd July 2020.
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