Cover Image: Olive

Olive

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Member Reviews

Emma Gannon's debut focuses on Olive and her changing relationships with her female friends amidst marriage and motherhood. There has been a lot of advance praise about this book and I started reading it feeling that perhaps I was the wrong demographic for it as I am a woman in my 50s with an adult child.  However, I found it to be an intelligent, funny and insightful read with believable characters that I really rooted for. The novel takes a powerful and thoughtful  look at society's expectations of women and the pressure we face to have children.

I loved this book, the characters really stayed with me and I would highly recommend it.

Many thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a digital ARC.
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Unfortunately I didn’t enjoy this as much as I had hoped I would. The subject matter seemed promising but I just couldn’t get into it, I have awarded 3 stars as I felt that the subject matter had potential.
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This is a tricky one to review. On the one hand, I really enjoyed the premise of the novel, as the concept of being childless by choice is one that is still rarely explored even in modern day literature. As someone who is currently childless by choice, I found it really refreshing and interesting to see this approach to life being acknowledged and celebrated in fiction. 

You also get a lot of interesting perspectives scattered throughout the novel focusing on all sides of the debate in terms of the decision of whether to have children, ranging from the intentionally child-free, those desperate for children, and others dealing with the life changes that accompany both the early and later years of having children. In this sense, it’s a great book club read as it has a lot of contrasting POVs. 

On the other hand, I really didn’t like the main character. I felt like a lot of the drama in the book resulted from decisions of her own making, which she refused to acknowledge and instead blamed on everyone around her. While the premise of the novel is relatively unique, Olive and her portrayal of the modern child free woman is sadly not. By the end of the book, she feels like just another childish and rude caricature of the ‘selfish, child free woman’ trope. 

All in all, a great premise let down by a weak and unlike able central character. Sadly not one I can recommend. 

2.5 rounded down to 2.

Disclaimer - I received an advance reading copy from NetGalley. This has not affected my review in any way and all opinions are my own.
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This book seriously makes you think about the choices you make and what effects it has on those around you. However it also makes you realise how special the people you have around you are and the ups and down you have with them through life, but they will always stick with you.
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I'm on the fence with this one. I loved the subject of the book. I often read about couples getting the happy ever after with marriage and a baby but life isn't like that so it was refreshing to read a story that showed the other side of the coin. Not every woman wants a baby and I feel this is still a taboo subject even in this day and age. It was good to read a book that openly covers the topic. Even as a mother myself I found it a refreshing read and it gives food for thought. I thought the subject was handled really well as were the issue brought up surrounding mental health. I had a few issues with the characters especially out main lady. She made alot of her own drama then tried to push it off on everyone else for being too busy to listen to her and this left me feeling quite negatively towards her. Overall I found it a read eye opener and it would be a great book club read to sit around and discuss
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This book is thoughtful and addresses lots of topics that are considered scandalous but shouldn't be. Olive is over 30 and expected to settle down, get married and have kids. Her friends are following the conventional route, but this is not what she wants. She shouldn't have to feel bad about not wanting what conventional society wants. And she shouldn't have to justify her choices. She needs to figure out what she actually wants, and where she fits in in this world. She challenges all the conventional wisdom of what is supposed to make a woman happy and together with her friends, we see what other options women have. 
I love that the book addresses all those feelings of failure and pressure around what woman of marriageable age are expected to want and feel. It covers marriage, divorce, betrayal, sexual fluidity, IVF and childless by choice. At the same time, there is humour and warmth and earthy entertainment. A lovely easy, thought provoking read.
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1.5 stars

When I first saw the synopsis of Olive, my heart filled with joy. Despite of my efforts to find books about women who choose to remain childfree, these stories are nearly impossible to come by. Instead, women without children are often villainized and portrayed as miserable, angry ladies who hate kids. This is also what the society at large seems to think about women who don’t want children; I’ve been told that I’m selfish or that I’m not a woman at all if I don’t want children. I have been told that I will sorely regret not having children, and most often that I will change my mind. Books about childfree-living are sorely, desperately needed. And I felt a little spark of hope when I saw Olive’s synopsis. I wished so bad that it was the book that I had been looking for! And although the rep turned out to be as meaningful as I wished, otherwise Olive was a painful read. And not in a good way.

But let’s talk about the rep first! Olive is a 30-something powerhouse of a woman who works in a feminist magazine and loves meeting up with her friend group after work for dinner & wine. She is perfectly content with her life until her long-term boyfriend tells her that he is ready to start a family. But Olive doesn’t want kids. And even though this realisation doesn’t seem ground-breaking to Olive at first, she soon notices that her relationship and friendships are going to be turned upside down because of it. Everyone turns on her with the same offensive arguments that I have heard during my life.

Olive grows increasingly certain of her decision even though she doesn’t get any support from her friends. In fact, being childfree is explored from many different angles. Olive’s friends include Bea who has three children, Cec who has just given birth, and Isla who desperately wants a child but has had difficulty conceiving. This set up gives a rich platform for exploring the issue with loads of different perspectives and experiences in the mix. Unfortunately however, some encounters with fleeting side-characters felt like they were forced within the narrative only to spice up the debate; we have a random childhood friend who relates to Olive how she regrets having her child, bigoted parents who see Olive as less of a person for not contributing to the world’s overpopulation, and an older neighbour who has become estranged from her children. Although the rep is important, I felt awkward about some of these encounters and they didn’t seem to contribute anything to the book other than another perspective on Olive remaining childfree.

The book also went over the top in other areas. I found many of the characters annoying or one-sided; I felt like some characters refused to see anything from each others’ perspectives, and the dialogue was cringey at times. I even found a couple different disturbing remarks that the characters make, here is one of them:

“Like obviously it’s not great to be sexually objectified, but also I kind of missed it”

That isn’t a good take 😐

I also came across this unrealistic scenarios, which left me rolling my eyes:

“The night ended with loud music and dancing on tables, and the restaurant staff seemed to love it just as much as we did, pouring free shots straight from the bottle into our mouths.”

ermmmm well that never happened. Not even in fiction.

I found Olive herself to be the most frustrating character of all. She is childish and rude throughout the book which was such a disappointment to me. I really wanted this book to be a relatable account of a childfree character, a person who is independent, anxious, loyal and kind, like the synopsis says. Really, Olive is none of those things and most certainly not loyal or kind. She almost comes across as a bully, making mean comments about her co-workers and dismissing others constantly. Even though Olive does portray a character who doesn’t want children, the rep leaves a lot to be desired. In a way, Olive’s hatefulness brings to mind the traditional portrayal of childfree women as bitter and miserable.

There is one thing left to be addressed that almost made me DNF this book within the first few pages. Quite a few characters in this book constantly hate on vegans. In the beginning we get a completely unnecessary scene in which a vegan activist comes to Olive who is smoking outside her workplace to complain about the fur coat that she is wearing. Olive rudely points out to the activist that her coat is faux fur, and suggests that the activist secretly eats bacon sandwiches even though they are vegan. Later on in the book, the characters mock vegans again without any apparent reason. This random, ridiculous commentary happened here and there in the book from the mouths of different characters, and it almost made me feel like the author has some sort of an agenda against vegans rather than the characters. I just couldn’t understand what the hate added to the narrative. These scenes did nothing for the book. The characters could have as well been talking about how annoying it is when you forget to water your plants and they die on you. I’m still baffled by the vegan-hatred in Olive; was it a method to make the reader feel more connected to the characters in case they also hate vegans? Was it a way to showcase how mean the characters are? I honestly don’t know.

Overall, Olive promises a lot but doesn’t deliver. I found multiple scenes that made me wince with second-hand embarrassment, and I couldn’t relate to the characters. I was so excited for a book with rep on being childfree that I probably went in with unrealistic expectations 😓

But despite of all that, it is still the only book I know that provides a discussion on having children, being childfree and struggling with being childless. Here’s to hoping we get more of those books!
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Thanks to Netgalley and the publishers for this arc. I’ve heard good things about Olive by Emma Cannon on social media, also the yellow cover is so warm and inviting, so I was excited to read this. This explores the life of Olivia, a 33-year old woman who breaks up with her long-term boyfriend because she doesn’t want to have children but he does. I’m a 31-year old woman, who also doesn’t want children either, so this was a book that greatly intrigued me, and I overall I found this to be a soul sister of a read that made me feel less alone about my decisions. 

The story opens with an article written by Olive followed by a past scene in 2008. Olive has just graduated university and is moving out from her house-share, where she’s been living with her three best friends. She’s know these girls since secondary school, when they become friends and their relationship evolved into a tighter and more closer relationship. Throughout the novel we get flashbacks to their happier moments when the four would holiday together annually and have monthly dinners at the same restaurant, so they remain involved in each other’s lives. These past chapters contrasts with the main storyline. Olivia is now 33-years old and a writer for an online magazine. Professionally she’s doing well but personally she’s an emotional mess: she’s broken up with her boyfriend of nine years. He wants children, she doesn’t. Her decision to live without having children is put under the strain as is her friendship when her best friends all get consumed by their own children. We have:
* Bea who always she knew she wanted children. A maternal and warm friend who wants to cuddle everyone and take care of them. She has three children of her own. She’s the one Olive felt closest to but finds herself feeling jealous that Bea now has her own thing with Cecily and feels left out. 
* Cecily who’s pregnant with her first baby, and has bonded with Bea. 
* Isla, who’s suffered from endometriosis and is struggling through rounds of IVFs. When she finds getting pregnant difficult she struggles to be around Bea and Cecily seeing them procreate easily and finds Olive’s decision to not have children selfish, negative and off-putting. 
The story, narrated in first person, follows Olive and the change in her friendship, as her friends are consumed by domestic problems and have less time for her, and how alone she feels in her decision to be childless. Her editor assigns her an article based on how difficult millennials are finding becoming parents due to financial issues, which leads Olive to look at being childfree through a much more critical eye and she attends workshops. Olive also has an adorable friendship with her elderly neighbour Dorothy. 
Mainly though this is a book about four women going through different things in their lives and follows how they overcome them and become better people. It’s an endurance and celebration of female friendship. As someone says in the book, “Our life decisions don’t have to be identical.” Another quote I loved is how once we die all that is left of us isn’t just our children, it’s all the memories people have of us and the small ways we’ve impacted the world and helped others. There’s many ways to live a fulfilled life and that’s subjective and different for everyone. 
This is an absolutely beautiful book, so tenderly written and observed with nuance and respects the different women and their decisions. The prose is filled with stunning quotes. It’s 5/5.
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This was a very readable book about a topic that isn’t often discussed - the fact that a woman can choose not to have children,
The story concentrated on Olive’s friendship with three other women and the implications that making a decision to not have a child can have on an individual and the effect it has on their relationships with those around them.
I thought it was well written and accessible to a wide variety of readers and would recommend it as a good read from this debut novelist.
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Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for this ARC.

Motherhood is a thorny issue for many women, and particularly those those of us in our thirties who are aware of our ticking biological clock. Gannon's novel is a sensitive and timely exploration of the issues around motherhood, especially for women who are are considering or have already made their decision not to have children. How do you cope with the constant assurances that you will 'change your mind'? How do you navigate relationships with friends or family who don't understand your choice or are struggling with their own fertility dilemmas? Gannon's representation of the complexities of female friendship is also very well-handled and realistic. A great read.
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Olive from Emma Gannon is an intriguing read. I loved how she tackled this head on - the assumption that women will want children, and if they don't... the assumption that they'll change their mind at some point  [insert eye roll here]. Ultimately this is about respecting the right to choose the direction of our lives - without judgement.
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Wasn't quite for me, unfortunately. I found the book relatable at parts, but I didn't connect with the characters, and found the relationships quite straining. It wasn't bad at all, just not what I wanted from it.
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Definitely a book of our times and very much needed. Olive doesn’t want children. She’s known it for a long time but half of the battle is convincing those around her that it’s ok that she feels this way. What follows is a story of friendship, bravery and finding yourself- whatever that looks like. I definitely enjoyed this one and it opened my eyes to many things at the same time which is always the sign of a good read!
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It was such a shame that this book was a let down because I really do think Emma (the author) does really amazing things. I will keep my review of the book relatively short because I don't have any good things to say and therefore there is no need for it to be long! 
This book is poorly written and I think the editor should have worked harder with Emma to construct the story better and develop characters. The problem with this book is it felt like Olive's thoughts were just thoughts Emma had but she didn't want to write a non-fiction book about being child-free. Therefore there's no narrative or character development, instead, it's inane thoughts about not wanting a child and all the horrible things society says to you because of this. Which is all fine and well if you want to write an essay about the subject but if you want to craft a fictional story about it, it needs to not just feel like personal ranting. 
Aside from this I thought Olive was a poorly constructed character, I can't deal with women who think their childhood friendships should never ever change and that things will always be the same. She moaned a lot about her friends being awful but never seemed to come to the realisation that perhaps she was also a bit awful to, and that they all really deserved each other? The other thing I couldn't grasp was this book was really Olive finally coming to grips with her not wanting to be a mother, the book begins with a relationship that ends because of that. She is incredibly resentful to her friends regarding motherhood and kids, but the thing is she hasn't ever said before any of this (and rarely says this during the book) that she doesn't want to be a mum. Her friends assume she does because she's never said otherwise and it's pretty annoying to dither on for pages and pages about how awful they are when you've never said to them "actually, I don't want to be a mum." So absurd. 

I'll leave this as is for now and finish off on Goodreads.
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This one really wasn't for me, sadly. I didn't bond with any of the characters and it felt like there was a lot of story suddenly packed into a short space at the end, after very little had happened during the rest of the book. The issues surrounding society's attitudes towards having children are, of course, important ones but it seemed as if they were being hammered home relentlessly at the expense of the plot.
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Loved this book- read in almost one sitting!! Thought the main character Olive was fabulous and enjoyed getting to know her circle of friends. Very well observed realistic characters...all with very plausible issues. Felt the style of the book was very suitable... bobbing between the past and the present. Emma explores the emotions of each character sympathetically. Whilst an easy read felt it exposed some much deeper issues. Thoroughly recommend. Will be looking out for the next book!
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I loved this book. I felt like I knew the main character in minutes, could related to her life and just enjoyed (and felt for) her life journey. This book is so well written, ever women will relate to it in some way. Each chapter unravelled like a real life story, which kept me gripped from start to finish. 
I love a good book, which peeps in to the lives of other- somehow they make me feel more normal- whatever that may be.
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Interesting subject matter and one that isn’t really ever covered.

I enjoyed the fact it looked at someone who didn’t want children for a change.
I felt the book lacked some depth but was enjoyable.
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Just a bit too light and fluffy regarding such a difficult topic and the ending failed to follow through on some of the earlier themes
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Olive follows the story of Olive, a thirty something struggling to come to terms with her decision to not have children surrounded by a friendship group and a society who all appear to have embraced motherhood with open arms. Olive is such a refreshing book to read for a woman my age and really resonated with me.

Whether you're a mother or not, this book is a joyful read. The depiction of Olive and her friendship group is beautifully honest, I find a lot of books in this genre paint female friendship as something that is perfect, with friends keeping in touch constantly, always getting along and having seemingly endless amounts of time to spend together. This book felt so refreshing as I felt it showed real friendship, friends argue, friends have their own things going on and struggle to keep in touch, but no matter what, will always be there for each other when needed. 

This book was a easy, enjoyable read, but covers the topic of motherhood and the choices involved so well that it really gave me food for thought. I would highly recommend!
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