Old Burnside by

6 July 2011

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A memoir of a Southern Girlhood
In 1913 Harriette Simpson Arnow moved to Old Burnside, Kentucky, with her family. This is her recollections of life in the once bustling lumber town. She was only four years old at the time, and yet she still manages to recreate the town and people she knew back then. It is a small book, only 125 pages in the edition I read, but there is plenty going on.

old burnside

Anyone interested in history, especially the history of “ordinary people” will enjoy this one. It has so many anecdotes and tales about various peoples that Arnow knew growing up. Although I did get the impression that Harriette didn’t have the easiest relationship with her mother. Nothing is stated outright, but there are several comments that seem to suggest she was overly concerned with getting her own way and not making allowances for the fact that her husband, Harriette’s father, was hard-working and probably tired when asked to fell trees to clear the view. But perhaps I am reading to much into a few sentences.

This isn’t a book that deals with introspection and self-examination, instead, it is, as the subtitle states a memoir of a girlhood. And so school is a major part of the book. I really enjoyed her descriptions of lifein Kentucky, and the way that previous wars were remembered and talked about, and how the prospect of World War was on the horizon. And how once it broke out it dominated conversation, even if Harriette didn’t like such talk. She prefered to listen to her father’s stories about work and the like.

I read this mainly because I loved The Dollmaker and wasn’t to know more about the author. And it is an interesting read, but not a world-changing one. I probably won’t be of interest to you unless you know of Arnow and are interested in her life. If you have read it, and have written a review, let me know and I’ll add a link.

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2 Responses

  1. Caroline says:

    This sounds interesting. I bought The Dollmaker after having read your review last year but have had no time so far. The war element in this book would interest me.
    Caroline´s last blog post ..Sarah Gardner Borden: Games to Play After Dark (2011)

    • Fence says:

      Caroline if you get the time you must read The Dollmaker, one of my all time favourite books.

      The war is only mentioned in passing, but is still leaves its mark.