‘Moving, memorable and a mirror for every woman at a crossroads, OLIVE has a little bit of all of us’
– OLIVE (Publisher Quote)
[ About the Book ]
OLIVE is many things.
She knows her own mind.
And 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 and – sometimes – stereotypes to fulfil. So when her best friends’ lives branch away towards marriage and motherhood, leaving the path they’ve always followed together, she starts to question her choices – because life according to Olive looks a little bit different.
[ My Review ]
Olive is the debut novel from the Sunday Times bestselling author, Emma Gannon. Published on July 23rd by Harper Collins, Olive is described as a novel ‘told with great warmth and nostalgia, this is a modern tale about the obstacle course of adulthood, milestone decisions and the ‘taboo’ about choosing not to have children.‘
I knew when I decided to read Olive that I was not of the same generation. I went to college in the late 80s/early 90s. I am now in my *ahem* very late 40s and a mother of two teens. Many of my views would be somewhat contrasting to Olive, but I was interested to get into the mindset of a woman whose experiences in life were quite different to mine.
Olive is a book I expect will have marmite qualities. It will frustrate some readers, it will be nostalgic for many others. If discussed in a book club, I suspect a few arguments would ensue. Why? you may ask. Well, to be honest, Olive is a rather self-obsessed, self-indulgent woman.
Olive is now 33 and has made the decision not to have children. Olive walks away from a solid and well established relationship, as her partner wanted children. And so begins Olive’s journey on a path that, she soon discovers, can sometimes be very lonely indeed.
Olive has always been secure in her friendship with her best friends Cecily, Bea and Isla. All through the college years, they were inseparable. Through their 20s they worked hard and partied hard but the time did finally come for them all to settle down and embrace some of the responsibilities that come with adulthood. Although Olive is the main character in the book, Emma Gannon gives life to Cecily, Bea and Isla. They each have their own unique personalities and their own life challenges. As Olive focuses on her own troubles, her friends are going through some serious shifts in their own lives. Olive wants to relive the glory days of after-work cocktails, bed-late and chatting into the early hours. She is frustrated by the fact her friends are no longer as accessible as before. Now single with a very successful career, Olive has time to be with her friends but they are not there for her as she had hoped. Olive reaches a crisis realising that Cecily, Bea and Isla are moving on without her. The dynamics are changing and Olive is scared. Scared of losing her best friends, scared of never meeting a like-minded partner to share her life and dreams with but most of all scared of being lonely.
There is no doubt that Olive’s behaviour can be irritating. Her friends have their own very real problems yet Olive doesn’t always see beyond her own. There were many times during the book that I was almost shouting at her to just grow up.
Emma Gannon has been asked in numerous interviews is Olive a reflection of her own personality, a question that irks Emma Gannon. Her response…
“I don’t mind admitting that when I hold a copy of Olive in my hands, I feel like I am holding my heart on a plate. A beating weight of my own highs, lows, problems and breakthroughs. But it’s also a story with a character who lives and breathes outside of me.
As the book gears up for publication, I realise the book is not mine anymore. I just really hope we can stop robotically asking women if their novels are based on their own lives, because it doesn’t matter. To me, it is the irrelevant B story.
Just read the book, it will tell you everything you need to know.“
Emma Gannon, Why must we know if a work of fiction is autobiographical?
When reading Olive, I had no expectations. This was a staycation read for me, an easy read while enjoying the West Cork sunshine, but I see in other reviews that there were many who are frustrated. They are quite clearly irritated with Emma Gannon’s take on a child-free existence, either by choice or otherwise. This is a very taboo subject. It doesn’t impact me personally but for many I can see how this book could cause frustration, anger and maybe stress. I read Olive as a holiday read and nothing more. I wasn’t looking for anything life-changing or inspiring. This is the story of a one woman and her friends, all struggling to find the path that is right for them. They have their ups and downs but ultimately their bond is strong with deep roots. As the years pass, all friendships take on new forms as each person reaches different crossroads in their lives. This is their story. This is Olive’s story.
Olive is a thought-provoking read exploring motherhood, fertility, female friendships, relationships and much more. It navigates through some tricky waters with a protagonist who, at times, frustrates and bewilders but, overall, I think Emma Gannon has created something that will raise the hackles of many, while also providing comfort to others. Olive, and it’s subject matter, is a book that will be discussed and that can only be a good thing!
“Ultimately, at the heart of the book, I wanted to write about friends – people who have been in the same boat, gone through school and university together, and feel they have the same benchmarks to hit. Suddenly, in your thirties, you can feel distant from them, and threatened by their new life: ‘will they stop seeing you if you have a child?’ I think these are very typical fears that come to mind for women.”
Emma Gannon, Irish Independent
[ Bio ]
Emma Gannon is an award-winning writer, speaker, Sunday Times columnist and podcaster. Her writing has been published everywhere from the Guardian to Glamour. She is the bestselling author of memoir Ctrl Alt Delete and The Multi-Hyphen Method, which became a Sunday Times bestseller. She is also the host of hit podcast series ‘Ctrl Alt Delete’, which has reached over 5 million downloads.
Olive is Emma’s debut novel.
Website ~ https://www.emmagannon.co.uk/
Twitter ~ @emmagannon