Originally published: 25 June 2020
Author: Emma Gannon
Published by: HarperCollins
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Length: 416 pages
Reading dates: 25-27 July 2020
Knows her own mind.
OLIVE is many things, 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, boxes to tick and – sometimes – stereotypes to fulfil. And when her best friends’ lives start to branch away towards marriage and motherhood, leaving the path they’ve always followed together, Olive starts to question her choices – because life according to Olive looks a little bit different.
Moving, memorable and a mirror for every woman at a crossroads, OLIVE has a little bit of all of us. Told with great warmth and nostalgia, this is a modern tale about the obstacle course of adulthood, milestone decisions and the ‘taboo’ about choosing not to have children.
Olive is independent and knows her own mind, working as a journalist. The books opens with a piece she has written in 2020 for her magazine about her choice to remain childless. The rest of the book is about how she came to this decision.
Olive is in her early 30s and has just split up with her boyfriend of almost 10 years because he wanted children and she did not. Luckily, she has a great group of friends she has known since childhood. They went to University together and are still close. In 2019, her friends have all settled down and are thinking about families. Bea is already married and has a young family. Cecily is heavily pregnant with her first child and Isla is undergoing gruelling IVF treatment.
Olive is tasked with exploring women who choose to remain childless as a task for work. She attends a “Child Free By Choice” evening and is thrilled to discover other women who feel the same as she does. But her feelings cause conflict with her friends who think that Olive doesn’t support their choices. And Olive feels they should support her choice more. I didn’t always like her as a character but she felt real and her friendships felt so authentic!
This was a really interesting read, especially for a 47 year old with two kids. It was interesting to be inside Olive’s head to hear her think about the peer pressure of having kids, how once you get to a certain age it is seen as the next step. I never had that peer pressure – I was the first of my friends to get married and the first to have children (I had my first at 28). I left quite a big gap before number 2 but I don’t remember any pressure on me to have a second and of course for me, the majority of my childbearing was done before the obsession we have with social media.
But it made me think about why women (and men) might not want children. They cost a lot of money and you certainly loose your freedom and independence. Couples often leave it later in life to settle down and it takes longer to get on the housing ladder. And of course women have many more opportunities for fulfilling careers now. Some couples can’t conceive and make peace with the fact they can’t have children rather than going through gruelling IVF treatments.
I loved Olive’s explorations into all the reasons women choose to remain childless and how she finds peace with her decision. With friendship at the heart of Olive, this was a thought provoking, revealing and entertaining read!
Thank you so much to Tandem Collective for inviting me to be part of the Instagram readalong and to HarperCollins for a copy of the book.
About the author:
Emma Gannon is an award-winning writer, speaker, Sunday Times columnist and podcaster. Her writing has been published everywhere from the Guardian to Glamour. She is the bestselling author of memoir Ctrl Alt Delete and The Multi-Hyphen Method, which became a Sunday Times bestseller. She is also the host of hit podcast series ‘Ctrl Alt Delete’, which has reached over 5 million downloads.
Olive is Emma’s debut novel.