PAST CONTINUOUS by Denise Goff

PAST CONTINUOUS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A gossipy, unashamedly soapy, kitchen-table tale, set in Newcastle, about four sisters--three of whom are relentlessly clobbered by woes but triumph at the close. Megan chronicles her visits to Grandmother Rose's public-housing flat for what's known as ""the class""--a venture launched for patriotic knitting in WW II. Now, years later, there's baking, sherry, always cards, and, once, even a grand foray into dancing. Between Megan's five firsthand reports, from 1960-73, are the stories of Rose's younger sisters, also in the class. Aunt May had mysteriously broken off her engagement to Will, then reconsidered and married him. But she couldn't bear to tell him of a mistake that caused venereal disease and apparent sterility. (There was also an interval with an Italian farm laborer who was killed by a threshing machine). Meantime, Aunt Alice is married to a wife-beater who's just beginning to prey on his young daughter, and Emily has had two lovers die in faraway places--one a black G.I. whose child she gave up in grief. Emily can't risk any more close relationships. Eventually, though, all these miseries lift (Alice's disposal of her husband is particularly satisfying), while Megan, present as the old ladies gather again in 1990, wonders at the veracity of the stories circulated, the memories and ghosts. But throughout the slap of cards, clink of glasses, and cigarettes bobbled in lipsticked mouths, Megan ends in admiration for lives lustily lived. Newcomer Goff, author of several children's books, captures the joyful, cacophonous intimacy of warm family reunions. Her tale is thickly lathered with catastrophe and sentiment, but these Geordie gals, tough and brassy and loving, are appealing.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1996
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: St. Martin's