The undertaker's daughter is an autobiographical memoir of childhood about growing up in a funeral home in Kentucky; Kate read a couple of extracts. One, about a classmate who drowned in a swimming pool, had powerful resonances the characters in Wendy Cope's Tich Miller and Charles Causley's Timothy Winters; the other looked at fear, and the absence of fear, in the face of death.
Kate's talk also took in the wider aspects of Southern Gothic; the idea that there's a constant feeling of being haunted, and some of the causes: religious hysteria, family secrets, violence; the sundrenched wide skies but the feeling of confinement into small towns with small-town expectations and the further confinement into the domestic environment. She also touched on the slave past - in the small town she talks about, there was a lynching of four innocent black men in 1908 - and the weight of history. It was a really interesting talk, and there were some good questions. The book isn't out in the US yet and Kate has genuine worries about taking a book tour into the South because of the themes discussed and how people may react. I haven't started the book yet but am really looking forward to reading it, as someone who can't decide whether To kill a mocking-bird or gods in Alabama is her favourite novel.