The book centres around the titular, Olive, a child-free by choice protagonist. Novel idea, huh! It shouldn't be the case but it is and Gannon definitely spotted a gap in the market to have this necessary & nuanced conversation.
For August’s book club, we had the pleasure of reading Olive, the hotly-anticipated novel by Sunday Times Author, Journalist & Podcaster, Emma Gannon.
After several best-selling non-fiction books Ctr, Alt, Delete, The Multi-Hyphen Method and The Multi-Hyphen Life, Olive is Gannon’s fiction debut.
The book centres around the titular, Olive, a child-free by choice protagonist. Novel idea, huh! It shouldn’t be the case but it is and Gannon definitely spotted a gap in the market to have this necessary & nuanced conversation.
Despite this being an underlying theme of the book, it doesn’t just speak to the women who don’t want to have children. Olive is a warm and honest story that has female friendship at its core. It explores the ebb and flow of female friendship as we age and how it evolves when we’re catapulted into making life changing decisions about our careers, motherhood and marriage.
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.
Find out how the team got on with this Gannon gem!
I absolutely LOVED reading Olive. I straight away felt so connected with the main character Olive, I felt a lot of compassion for her as she navigated her recent breakup and the disconnect she felt from her close friends who were either pregnant, had children or were trying for a child. This book really delves into the social construct that all women are expected to want children and if they don’t, something must be wrong with them or they will ultimately change their mind. As a woman who isn’t particularly maternal and has also never really felt the “buzz” of starting a family one day like some of my friends have since the age of 16, I could really see myself in Olive. This book really explores the issues women face, whether they want children or not, whether they can have children or not. Olive is so honest and real, showing how friendships can begin to break down when everyone grows up and starts wanting different things. How navigating adult life can be so difficult, especially when you aren’t hitting the ‘expected milestones’, which can make someone feel so isolated. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and absolutely loved the ending which gave a peek into Olive and her friend’s futures, would definitely recommend!
Would you recommend?: Yes
I flew through this in a matter of days. The exploration of messy and complicated female friendship is nuanced and honest, and I found that SO refreshing to read. I love that Olive, a woman in her 30s and fresh out of a nine-year relationship, is very much a character who’s still figuring life out and unapologetic about it, even if it does leave her feeling out the loop sometimes. Her friends Bea, Isla and Cec are in very different places, navigating motherhood in all its myriad forms, whilst Olive doesn’t want to have children (and no it’s not just a ‘phase’). The pressure to get married, have children and complete all those milestones society tells us we, as women, have to tick off to be happy comes under examination in this novel and Emma Gannon handles the topic with aplomb. Women can feel fulfilment and love in so many different ways, and what we choose to do with our ovaries should never be up for debate. I’ve no doubt Olive has given countless women a voice to be reckoned with.
Would you recommend: Yes
It felt like I swallowed Olive in one sitting I consumed it so quickly. I knew from the first chapter that described the morning after the night before at University that I was going to adore this book because it was like reading an excerpt from my own life. Being in your late 20’s and 30’s is a constant barrage of baby talk and I’m so glad Emma chose this as a topic to centre her book around as it really doesn’t get spoken about enough. There are so many different angles when it comes to having children and the 4 women in the book represented different aspects of this. The characters were written so well, they felt like real humans that you could be annoyed at on one page but forgive them three pages later, and you could feel those important bonds between them constantly. I loved Olive’s journey of discovery and I think so many people that find themselves in a similar situation will be truly comforted by this book. Do give it a read even if you’re not in the “having babies” phase because it’s so much more than that.
Would 100% recommend
I already adore Emma Gannon’s writing style though reading her non-fiction books, so I was excited to read her first fiction and after whizzing through the first few pages of this, I was instantly hooked. Her characters are so well developed and her descriptions so real you feel as though you’re the fifth friend in the group. The book follows Olive, the child-free by choice protagonist and having never read a character who is childfree by choice in any literature before this, it felt very new and needed! I found it so interesting and had some really great conversations off the back of it. Although this is certainly a main theme of the book, that isn’t all this book is centred around. Olive is a real and relevant story that has female friendship at the heart of it, following Olive and her friends as they navigate their adult lives. I think Olive as a character will be so refreshing and reassuring to a lot of people who read this. Society often makes us feel as though we need to tick life boxes at a certain age, and this book breaks a lot of this down. I bloody loved Olive, it was such a digestible, warming and modern tale that I could not put down!
Would you recommend? YES
Although it took me a little while to warm to some of the characters in this book, I finished Olive feeling such empathy towards the women at the centre of the story and the unique struggles that come with having children (or not, more to the point), relationships, careers and everything in between.
I’m usually drawn to novels more lighthearted in their themes, but actually this realistic tale was exactly what I needed in 2020- something that showed a less perfect adaption of life as a woman. It affirmed for me that the choices we make and different destinations we arrive at are always valid, even when they differ from those closest to us. Olive was refreshing and raw and served as a much-needed reminder that finding joy from decisions that don’t follow the crowd tend to be the most rewarding.