Saturday, February 12, 2011

Review: After the Fire,a Still Small Voice by Evie Wylde

Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Publisher: Random House, 2009

Following the breakdown of a turbulent relationship, Frank moves from Canberra to a shack on the East Coast once owned by his grandparents. There among the sugar canes and the sand dunes he attempts to rebuild his life.

Forty years earlier, Leon is growing up in Sydney, turning out treacle tarts at his parents' bakery and flirting with the local girls. But when he's conscripted as a machine-gunner in Vietnam he finds himself suddenly confronting the same experiences that haunt his war-veteran father.

As these two stories weave around each other we learn what binds together Leon and Frank, and what may be keeping them apart.

For me the true strength of this novel lay in the beauty of the writing and the author's ability to bring Australia to vivid life. Her descriptions of the landscape: the huge skies, the ocean, cane fields and gum trees ......the heat, the dust , the 'dead flies lying in the sink' are so evocative you feel as though you are there.
Everything about it is very Australian including her use of language. As a New Zealander I had no problem with it  but those from more distant parts of the world may need help in interpreting some of the phrases and slang.

It'a a quiet book that meanders through the lives of three generations. Frank's grandparents are immigrants from WWII Holland  and the part of the story I enjoyed the most was their life as they, and their son Leon,  struggle to make a living from the bakery and cope with the prejudices of the time. Then Leon's father goes to fight in the Korean War and although he returns he is a broken man. Years later Leon also serves in Vietnam . While the book touches quickly on their war experiences and how they changed after their return the focus is on the effect on their loved ones of those changes.

What I didn't like was that, despite the intensely emotional themes of loss , sorrow and betrayal, I never became involved with any of the characters on that feeling level. That always leaves me a little disappointed.

Still a very good novel which I'd recommend provided you don't mind a slower paced read.

Aussie Author Challenge


  1. I brought this book on a complete whim a couple of months ago, I think I liked the cover or the title. I quite like slower paced reads in general so I'm happy with the way you described it.

  2. I am glad you recommend this one, as it's on my TBR pile!