Book Review: Olive by Emma Gannon

Olive

I’d seen this book on lists of ‘books to look out for in 2020’ and such like – but then Dawn O’Porter mentioned it on her Instagram stories, and I popped onto NetGalley and was approved for an advance review copy #winningatlockdown.

Here’s the blurb:

“OLIVE is many things.

Independent.
Adrift.
Anxious.
Loyal.
Kind.
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.

Moving, memorable and a mirror for anyone at a crossroads, OLIVE has a little bit of all of us. 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.”

Now – hands up, I don’t think I’m target market for this book – I’m mid (verging to late) 40s with 4 kids – and the main theme of the book is a millennial considering being childfree by choice.  Having said that, I totally respect any woman who wants to be childree by choice – I think an awful lot of people are sucked into having kids because it’s the expected thing not necessarily because they’ve made a conscious choice. I’m also hyper aware NOT to ask

‘when are you having kids?’
‘are you going to have another one?’
‘do you regret not having children?’

to people – as you don’t know their back story – but I am amazed how many people don’t have that restraint!

Anyway – back to the book.

The main character Olive (actually Olivia – but I like this different derivative, it’s so usually Liv!) has 3 best friends.  They were all at school together and then went to the same university and shared a house – and now in their early 30s remain close friends.  Although having said that, I think all of them are quite selfish in their own ways – and don’t really look out for their friends at times.

This is compounded by them all being at very different life stages – particularly when it comes to kids.

Bea had her kids young. and is now in a seemingly happy country life with 3 kids and a husband.
Cec is a high flying lawyer who has her first child during the book.
Isla is desperate to conceive but has endometriosis and is having IVF.
And Olive has just split up with her long term boyfriend because kids finally became a dealbreaker for him.

Considering they’ve been friends forever – there seems to be lots of times when they don’t think about each other much – or share what they’re thinking with each other – which I’m not sure rang very true!

Olive seeing a fertility specialist about her decision not to want to have kids also seems a bizarre choice – seeing a relevant specialist is one thing – but someone dealing with the total opposite of what you want vindication for was a strange choice.  Attending a ‘childfree by choice’ event sounds much more sensible.

Despite me dissing the characters and their friendships, I did really enjoy the book.  It’s written in a funny, relevant, chatty style – like the aforementioned Dawn O’Porter or Mhairi McFarlane – both of whom I love.

I loved Olive’s relationship with her elderly neighbour – having friends of different ages gives such a different perspective on life.

It was a quick read and I did enjoy it and it broaches the subject of being childfree by choice which is still a real taboo for lots of people.  Definitely thought provoking.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for my advance review copy.