By Elizabeth Strout
In the interests of not breaking the habit of a lifetime, I am, once again late to this party. This is a winner of The Pulitzer Prize For Fiction no less. Not entirely sure what that is to be honest. I mean, I know it’s very good to win it and hurrah and all that but couldn’t give you details of what it actually is. If this were a proper blog, I would go off and research that and we would all learn something. Unlucky. However, what a book. Sometimes, when people write well, in my ignorance, I read things and I think – well it seemed a little overwritten. Lots of descriptive stuff can make me think that that authors are trying too hard to, well, win the Pulitzer Prize. This, however, this genuinely is beautifully written. It’s a quite ordinary story of an ordinary woman in a small town in Maine. She’s imperfect, kind, sharp – I believed that she is a real person. I think the phrase is a “properly fleshed out character”. In a way not much happens but actually things do happen in this small town. Some events, she is on the periphery of and others have her at their centre. Olive is a retired school teacher in a 25 year marriage to a lovely man. She has a problematic relationship with her grown up son and, as I said, things happen. I loved it – very very much. It’s going on my (much reduced) keepy bookshelf. A few years ago I bought HOH the DVD of this story with Frances McDormand because it had won a lot of awards I think. When we moved I found it at the bottom of a pile with the cellophane still on. (ingrate) so I Ziffited it. I’m a bit sorry now – would have liked to have seen it.
Did we talk about Little Women? I expect lots of you have seen it. My opinion is here. I will not be taking questions. I cried more or less all the way through. I loved the book as a child and the film is just beautiful. The relationships between the sisters are wonderfully played and I also liked the way Beth doesn’t get altered to be the youngest which happens in the films sometimes. (This is VERY important. Amy is the youngest. Why change it)? Florence Pugh’s Amy is fantastic – just the right mix of peevish and sympathetic but for me the stand-out was Saoirse Ronan as Jo. (I had to look spelling her name up – you won’t be surprised to learn). She is so brilliant playing, in my humble opinion, one of the great literary characters EVER (No. No. No. I said no questioning. I am correct). She won’t win anything for it because all the prizes go to people doing impressions of other people so the Judy Garland impression will win. But I loved her so much. It’s a great film.
HOWEVER. (Crashing symbols for effect) The film isn’t perfect. The Professor is too young (and beautiful for that matter but I don’t really have a problem with that) Also Greta Gerwig (who directed and adapted and may be a bona fide genius) has changed the end ever so slightly. This is wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong and I say unto you again WRONG. Again. I am taking no arguments. I feel very strongly about this. (Can you tell)? Otherwise. Quite brilliant.
Lastly and briefly – promise. If you have Netflix do yourself a favour and find “Won’t You Be My Neighbour?”. It’s the documentary about the character Tom Hanks plays in the upcoming “A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood.” It’s about Fred Rogers whose programmes revolutionised American Children’s TV. It is so lovely. I cried a few times. There is an interview that Mr Rogers conducts with a young boy who is a wheelchair user about his spinal surgery and how his life is. It is honest, non-patronising and just full of goodness. When they sing “It’s You I Like” together, you almost feel the world might make it. A bit.