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The Last Time I Saw Jane

by Kate Pullinger

Kate Pullinger’s new novel, The Last Time I Saw Jane, is the story of a woman’s journey of self-discovery, reconciling past with present, and the inability we have connecting with others.

Ostensibly, the novel chronicles the struggles of Audrey Robbins, a Canadian ex-pat working in London as a freelance journalist. Pullinger, a Canadian ex-pat working in London, includes a few subplots to infuse interest: Audrey’s high-school friendship with a girl named Jane; the tribulations of James
Douglas and his wife Amelia in the early 19th century; the relationship between Audrey and a radical professor in Toronto. Although these subplots occasionally cross paths, tell us about life in British Columbia a long time ago, and give us a little more Audrey-insight, they don’t add to the thematic whole, and peter out without epiphanies. If an author is going to pull me out of the main narrative thrust, I want payback. The non-linear approach to arriving at a climax is wonderful, but when there’s no climax, it makes for a rather frustrating experience.

When we first meet Audrey she is trying to put the death of her mother into perspective. Her father inadvertently assumed the role of Grim Reaper when he hit the car’s accelerator instead of the brake and ran over his wife. Although Audrey returned to London after the funeral “shocked and shaking with grief,” we later learn that for years she had never been that close to her parents. But her parents shouldn’t take this personally. After all, Audrey is an island of emotional detachment. She doesn’t need to confide in anyone about her tragedy. Instead, she buries her grief in work, and soldiers on by churning out articles and maintaining a façade of efficiency. Soon Audrey is having a relationship with Jack Campbell, a laconic American television producer whose idea of up-close and personal is a quickie followed by a Houdini-like disappearing act. Audrey doesn’t mind the arrangement until Jack dumps her for Shereen, a mutual friend. Rising above ignominy, Audrey becomes Jack’s mistress.

All this has the cumulative effect of making The Last Time I Saw Jane read like one extended downer. Even if the writing somehow transcended the material, the edible equivalent to this offering would be a mushy month of peas.


Reviewer: Mike McGowan

Publisher: Little, Brown


Price: $29.95

Page Count: 288 pp

Format: Cloth

ISBN: 0-316-72249-9

Released: June

Issue Date: 1996-6

Categories: Fiction: Novels