Books

Fine bunch of yarns Premium

16 March 2017 | by Kathy Watson

 

Ashland and Vine
JOHN BURNSIDE

With the very first line, this novel sets up its emotional world with remarkable efficiency. “The day I met Jean Culver was also the day I stopped drinking,” writes the narrator Kate Lambert. We know that Jean is going to be important. We know that Kate has suffered. We can sense that the next 300 or so pages are going to bring us revelations, connections and transformation.

Indeed they do, and not just in the case of Kate Lambert or Jean Culver. By the end of the novel, we have witnessed the ebb and flow, ups and downs and utter strangeness of a large family whose lives and circumstances mirror the changes of American society during the last part of the twentieth century. But let us stay with our two heroines and their unlikely friendship. Kate is an alcoholic still grieving the death of her father. To please her selfish and bullying lover, she agrees to become an interviewer in an oral-history project. The subject is Jean.





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