If you liked Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout, you'll love The Diamond House by Dianne Warren
This interview originally aired on May 1, 2021.
Olive, Again is a sequel to American author Elizabeth Strout's Pulitzer Prize-winning book Olive Kitteridge. In a series of connected stories, main character Olive Kitteridge describes life as a retired schoolteacher in a small town and remains oblivious to the challenges of those around her, including her adult son, husband and former students.
Warren is a writer and dramatist from Saskatchewan. Her novel Cool Water won the Governor General's Literary Award for fiction in 2010.
"Olive is interesting in Olive, Again. She's now in her 70s. By the end of the book, she's moved into a senior's home. When we last saw Olive, she'd come through the gauntlet of a busy life. She'd retired from many decades as her job as a public school math teacher.
"Her only son was off to a new life in New York. Her husband, Henry, had died after a lengthy illness. They had a prickly marriage, but a loving one. It's a novel that unfolds as a set of interconnected short stories. It's a small town of various characters — and Olive moves in and out of it and has different roles. She is facing down her senior years.
Olive remains formidable and a bit batty — but her heart is still selective in its generosity.
"Olive remains formidable and a bit batty — but her heart is still selective in its generosity. It's still battered by decades of child-rearing, housework, teaching school and barely tolerating other people's foibles — and almost always speaking her mind. But she's a more likable Olive."
"The Diamond House is an excellent book. Warren has set this new novel in Regina, where Warren herself lives. It's a sweeping and century-long tale that is told in three broad sections.
"The novel looks at the story of Estella Diamond's life — a life that, unlike Olive Kitteridge, doesn't include marriage but is definitely shaped by the quiet misogyny that was nestled into the heart of mid-20th century family life. Like Olive Kitteridge, Estella settles for a job as a public school mathematics teacher. But even that career is interrupted by her caregiving for one of her war-wounded brothers, by her aging mother and, finally, by her dying father.
The Diamond House becomes the story of Estella's journey into her senior years, by which time she's burned some bridges with her family.
"The Diamond House becomes the story of Estella's journey into her senior years, by which time she's burned some bridges with her family. And she has to, like it or not, forge this independent life."
Victor Dwyer's comments have been edited for length and clarity.