Classic Book Review: Olive

Olive by Dinah Maria Mulock Craik

by Dinah Maria Mulock Craik

4.5 out of 5 stars
Olive is born with a deformity in her spine. Her parents are devastated to have a humpback child, but try to show Olive compassion. Her childhood is peaceful, but as Olive grows up she begins to realize that she will never be able to live like other people. She is unlikely to ever marry or have a family. Uneducated and without resources, Olive must lean on her faith to help her through the difficulties of her life. She finds solace in nature and art, and in supporting her friends and family with a patient and kind spirit.

I loved this story so much! The plot is full of twists and secrets. There are so many characters whose fates are intertwined in unexpected ways. It was really interesting to see how people’s decisions changed the course of their life and took the story in new directions.

I really enjoyed the deep themes of faith and religious doubt. There is a character who begins to question his religious beliefs, but when he sees Olive’s faith in God, he begins to reconsider and seek the truth of God once more. The character development is so inspiring and hopeful! We all have questions about God, but if we just keep looking for the truth in the Bible, God will answer all our questions and give us faith.

Olive’s personality is so complex and beautiful! In some ways, she is the typical angelic Victorian heroine, good and pure. But she is always struggling internally with her own self-esteem and sadness. The only thing that brings her peace is her faith in God.

Despite the censure of the world, she finds that she can lead a useful and happy life. She has to fight for every inch of happiness, but her weapon is love. I really liked that she doesn’t become bitter, but is thankful for the good things in her life. She doesn’t harden her heart because of her misfortunes, but she remains tender and sensitive to respond warmly to her friends and family who love her. This is in contrast to another character who becomes bitter and angry when misfortune comes.

I think the thing I love most about Olive’s personality is her intellect. She is quick to see all the aspects of an argument and to take into consideration the emotions and thoughts of the people around her. She is sensitive to beauty in nature, and her skills in sketching and painting is the result of her intelligent approach to art. She is serious and thoughtful and wise beyond her years.

Everyone who knows Olive, from her parents to her friends, begins by pitying her, but in the end they all recognize her worth and they love her. I enjoyed the exploration of these deep themes about self-worth and what makes a worthwhile life. It’s really interesting to see the character development of all the people around Olive and how she influences them. She makes them change their perspective from the external to the internal.

I found it interesting that sometimes the writing would say some Victorian sexist phrase about how women are inferior to men in some way, and then in the very next scene we would see an example from one of the characters about how that is not true. I loved how the writing took these common Victorian ideas and proved them wrong!
One particular instance was a saying that old people don’t feel their emotions as strongly as young people, so it doesn’t matter if old people are sad. In the next scene we see Olive’s old aunt keeping a yearly memorial for someone who has died decades before. Her emotions are still strong and her sadness is still real even if her old age. Everyone’s emotions deserve respect and consideration.

The writing is very emotional and there are many heart-breaking scenes. The writing style is so powerful and vivid that you can really feel the strong emotions of the characters, even if they are trying to conceal their feelings.

I loved this book! I can’t wait to read more from this author.

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