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Oprah Book Club® Selection, November 1999: Vinegar Hill is an appropriate address for the characters who populate A. Manette Ansay's novel of the same name. After all, when Ellen Grier and her family return to the rural hamlet of Holly's Field, Wisconsin, it's not exactly a happy homecoming. Her husband, James, has been laid off from his job in Illinois. And for the moment, the family has moved in with Ellen's in-laws, Fritz and Mary-Margaret, an unhappy pair who dislike their daughter-in-law almost as much as they despise each other:
The first time Ellen sat at this table she was twenty years old, bright-cheeked after a spring afternoon spent walking along the lakefront with James, planning their upcoming wedding. It was 1959 and she was eager to make a good impression. She didn't know then that Mary-Margaret disliked her, that she was considered Jimmy's mistake.Thirteen years later, in 1972, Ellen is back at the table with no escape in sight. Both she and her husband do find work. Yet James seems to settle a tad too easily into his old life, and shows no interest in finding a place of their own. Even worse, his job takes him away from home for weeks at a time, leaving Ellen to cope with her abusive in-laws.
In Vinegar Hill Ansay paints a searing portrait of the Midwest's dark side, of a rural culture infected with despair and ruled over by an unforgiving God. Yet she does hold out a grain of hope, too. Just as Ellen seems permanently entangled in familial desperation, she makes a surprising discovery about James's long-dead grandmother--a woman whose rebellious spirit inspires Ellen to rescue herself and her loved ones from the impinging darkness. This late-breaking redemption doesn't cancel out the preceding unhappiness: Vinegar Hill remains a tough, uncompromising tale, one that requires some fortitude to read. But those with the heart for it will be rewarded with fine, spare prose and a hopeful ending. --Alix Wilber
Set in 1972, Ansay's debut novel revolves around Ellen Grier's struggle for liberation-liberation from her marriage to James, from her virtual enslavement to her sanctimonious, cruel in-laws and from what she see as the stultifying demands of her religion, Roman Catholicism. Financial difficulties have forced James and Ellen, along with their two children, to move back to the small Wisconsin town where they grew up and where they now share an acrimonious and joyless life with James's parents. Virtually every character is victimized by a private misery that causes pain and alienation and that in turn victimizes others. Ansay, who teaches creative writing at Vanderbilt, is adept at delineating these worlds of suffering, and her language can be both apt and beautiful. But she offers too many descriptions of the nightmares and waking bad dreams that seem to afflict all of her characters, and the reader begins to share the sense of being caught in a bad dream. As the story concentrates more on Ellen's search for identity-a familiar tale presented here in a familiar way-this sense of nightmare is intensified by an impression of deja vu. Though uneven, the novel offers glimpses of Ansay's potential to deliver a more coherent book next time.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Une œuvre dramatique dans laquelle chaque personnage impose son amertume et sa rancœur aux membres de sa famille. Lecteurs déprimés ou claustrophobes s'abstenir...Published 6 months ago by Manon Corriveau Côté
If you ever had a bad in-law experience, this book might help to put things in perspective. It could be worse, you could have in-laws like the one's in this book.Published on June 26 2004 by M. Alther
What is it that holds one within a family, a marriage, outside of love and duty? Lack of courage perhaps, or misguided religious inclinations. Read morePublished on June 21 2004 by Polkadotty
We all know people who struggle to stand up for themselves, who get caught in lifestyles we think we'd never tolerate. Read morePublished on June 11 2004 by Student at Dutch Fork Middle School
The extremely normal and familiar sirtuations that the main character in this novel faces are portrayed fabulously by the author. Read morePublished on May 28 2004
What a boring, depressing novel!
It's an easy read, but I personally didn't get anything from it. The story does have some interesting characters but not much happens to them. Read more
This author has the potential of writing well & has previously. Perhaps it was simply the plot (or lack of) that just couldn't keep me captivated. Read morePublished on May 4 2004 by Amazon Customer
The writing was excellent in this book, but at times I found the story a little unbelievable. Still, I would highly recommend this book, if for nothing else the fact that it was... Read morePublished on Feb. 6 2004
If you like books with a lot of detail, this is it.Besides from being a very nice person, Ms. Ansay writes beautifully and keeps you guessing, very nice book, I recamend itPublished on July 2 2003 by A