Alcoholism in fiction

Posted by Yvonne Barlow on Wednesday, April 12, 2017
So many alcoholics are associated with fiction - or they used to be - Dylan Thomas, Tennessee Williams, Ernest Hemingway, Dorothy Parker (she is credited with the line: "I like to have a Martini. Two at the very most. After three I'm under the table. After four I'm under the host.") These classic writers had booze problems and passed their addiction on to their characters.
Today alcoholism has almost disappeared from fiction. Paula Hawkins brought it back with A Girl on the Train (which I have to confess, I have not read).
I read a lot of unpublished manuscripts and when Julia North's Hear Me first crossed my desk I have to confess the opening scenes with alcoholic Lissa desperately trying to deny her problem while looking for a fix to calm her fraying senses - oh, it had me hooked.
You can read the early chapters here - try and tell me you don't feel her growing escalation.
Alcoholics make terrifically unreliable storytellers. We know they are driven by something other than the need to eat, laugh, sleep, make friends. As such, they will say what is necessary to ease their itch. Lissa in Hear Me makes a terrific alcoholic, and we do lose patience with her until we learn why she drinks. And that's the basis of all good characters, knowing not just their weaknesses but why they have them.


Tags: alcoholism  fiction  "hear me" "a girl on the train" "ernest hemingway" "dorothy parker" "paula hawkins" 
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Yvonne Barlow Editor at Hookline Books - where book clubs and readers choose the novels that go to print.

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