Olive was born to a mother who had wanted three sons.
Despite loving her daughter, Evelyn Piper found little in Olive to be proud of and expressed this often. Yet Olive is quietly resilient and believes in the possibilities that life has to offer.
After her mother’s sudden death, she is forced to navigate life independently and soon comes to understand the consequences of the decisions she makes, and the choicelessness of the time in which she lives.
Susan Hill’s stylistic approach to writing is one of the standout features of this novel – fast-paced and punchy with an attention to detail that powerfully reflects Olive’s inner turmoil.
Despite everything she experiences Olive remains resolutely true to herself and grows into an admirable and unknowingly feminist character.
However she can be a little wooden at times, with little said about her desires or her interest ‘in things’ that we are told about in the beginning. This can make her quite difficult to relate to and her narrative is impacted as a result.
Nonetheless, her naivete for the unforgiving times in which she lives, combined with her struggle to find contentment, is both poignant and hugely endearing.