It is 1999. Kate Lambert, a grieving, semi-alcoholic film student, invites an elderly woman to take part in an oral-history documentary. The woman, Jean Culver, declines, but makes her a bizarre counter-offer- if Kate can stay sober for four days, she will tell her a story. And if she can stay sober beyond that, there will be another, and then another, amounting to the entire history of one family's life. Though still shattered by the death of her father, and by the desultory abuse imposed by Laurits, her enigmatic collaborator and erstwhile lover - Kate is soon drawn into a Scheherazade-like matrix of tales, some painfully final, some still unfinished, in which Jean gradually offers a heartbreaking account, not only of one family, but of the American century itself, from World War II to Vietnam and the Weather Underground. A profound, mysterious, deeply moving novel - a meeting of love and grief, like water on arid soil - Ashland & Vine is the story of an unlikely friendship that transcends time, age and the limits of narrative to reveal the unexpected grace that comes of listening to another's history, while telling, as carefully as we can, what we know of our own.
John Burnside is amongst the most acclaimed writers of his generation. His novels, short stories, poetry and memoirs have won numerous awards, including the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize, the Whitbread Poetry Award, the Encore Award and the Saltire Scottish Book of the Year. In 2011 he became only the second person to win both the Forward and T. S. Eliot Prizes for poetry for the same book, Black Cat Bone. In 2015 he was a judge for the Man Booker Prize. He is a Professor in the School of English at St Andrews University.