After the Fire, a Still Small Voice by Evie Wyld

It must have been towards then end of last year that I first spotted After the Fire, a Still Small Voice, cover turned out on the new books shelf in the library. Such an intriguing title. Such a beautiful cover. I had to pick it up and find out more. I was intrigued and yet I didn’t bring the book home. I wasn’t sure that it was the book for me.

But then I read so much praise for both book and author that I began to wonder if I had made a mistake. And so the next time it appeared on the shelves I picked it up and held on to it!

When I opened the pages and began to began to read, I was captivated, by rich and beautiful prose and by the quite extraordinary evocation of the stark and savage beauty of the Australian setting. And that drew me into the twin storylines that hadn’t really called to me.

When a troubled relationship finally breaks down Frank moves away, to the coast, to a shack once owned by his grandparents. He wants to put his violent past, his troubled relationships with his father and his girlfriend behind him. He wants to become a new person and build a better life in his new community. And maybe he can, but it is difficult to let go of the past.

A generation earlier Leon grows up in another small town. He works in the family business, his father’s cake shop which when his father is sent to fight in Korea he must take over until his father comes back. When his father does return he is a changed man and cannot pick up the threads of his old life, and Leon struggles to hold his family and the business together. Then he is conscripted to fight in the Vietnam War and he too finds that the experience of war changes him forever. But maybe he can build a new life, in a shack on the coast.

Two compelling stories, quiet and yet intense, are interwoven. At first they seem separate, but gradually the links become evident, and add a whole new layer.

And characterisation  makes this sing. Two complex, flawed, emotionally scarred men come to life, with prose style and characters perfectly matched.

Descriptions too; the landscapes will stay with me as much as the characters.

Indeed all of the elements work together to make this a very accomplished debut novel.

It wasn’t a book that I could quite fall in love with. But I can appreciate its quality nonetheless.

4 responses

    • It is intriguing and very well written. I wasn’t that taken with the book as a whole, but I can understand why some people are raving about it.

  1. I had similar feelings to you. I could see the quality of the writing, but its gentleness meant that I never fell in love with it. It has only been a few months since I read it and I am already starting to forget about much of it – not a good sign 😦

    • For me it wasn’t so much the plot as the fact that the characters didn’t win me over. Credible yes, but I wasn’t engaged.

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