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After the Fire, A Still Small Voice [Paperback]

Evie Wyld
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)

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Book Description

13 Aug 2009

After the breakdown of a turbulent relationship, Frank moves from Canberra to a shack on the east coast once owned by his grandparents. He wants to put his violent past and bad memories of his father behind him. In this small coastal community, he tries to reinvent himself as someone capable of regular conversation and cordial relations. He even starts to make friends, including a precocious eight year old named Sal. But it is not that easy for him to let go of the past.

Leon is the child of European immigrants to Australia, living in Sydney. His father loves Australia for becoming their home when their own country turned hostile during the Second World War. His mother is not so comforted by suburban life in a cake shop. As Leon grows up in the 50s and 60s, his watches as his parents' lives are broken after his father volunteers to fight in the Korean War. Leon himself goes from working in the shop, sculpting sugar dolls for the tops of wedding cakes, to killing young men as a conscripted machine-gunner in Vietnam.

In the fall out from the war, Leon thinks he might be able to make a new life with his woman, make a baby, live by the sea in a small shack. But something watches from the cold shade of the teeming bush.

Set in eastern Australia with its dark trees and blinding light, where the land is old but its wounds are still wet, this beautifully realised debut tells a story of fathers and sons, their wars and the things they will never know about each other. It is about the things men cannot say out loud and the taut silence that fills up the empty space.

Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Jonathan Cape; First Edition; 1st printing. edition (13 Aug 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0224088874
  • ISBN-13: 978-0224088879
  • Product Dimensions: 21.8 x 14.2 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 435,616 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Just sometimes, a book is so complete, so compelling and potent, that you are fearful of breaking its hold. This is one: a novel about (as its title might suggest) devastating damage and the humanity that, almost unfathomably, remains...with awesome skill and whiplash wit, Evie Wyld knits together past and present, with tension building all the time. In Peter Carey and Tim Winton, Australia has produced two if the finest storytellers working today. On this evidence, Wyld can match them both (Stephanie Cross Daily Mail )

Ravishingly atmospheric and wisely compassionate, this somber, ambitious first novel attempts to net more sorrows, secrets, and horrors than it can hold, but there's no doubt that Wyld is a writer of immense abilities and depth (Booklist )

At times startling, Wyld's book is ruminative and dramatic, with deep reserves of empathy colored by masculine rage and repression (Publisher's Weekly )

A terrifically self-assured debut. (Guardian )

Wyld has a feel both for beauty and for the ugliness of inherited pain. (New Yorker )


It's not just about generations of men affected by war. It's about men everywhere. For any man who's ever felt like an emotional fence post, this is the book for you. I enjoyed it enormously. - Giles Foden

'Intense. Wyld is an absolutely brilliant prose writer. The first chapter is so acute, poetic but not self-consciously literary and all in service to the characters. A fantastically-written novel. But gripping, it works almost as a mystery. Incredibly realistic about men and the trouble they have expressing themselves. - Boyd Hilton, BBC Radio 5 Live

Splendid. There's a point where you realise if you're confident in a writer. For me it was page five. From that point on, I knew I would go anywhere with this author. The book has an incredible, quiet confidence in its own prose. It never raises its voice. I just ate it up. There were two brilliant Australian novels I read this year by Tim Winton and Steve Toltz, which got a huge amount of attention. This is equally good. A masterful piece of writing.- Joel Morris, BBC Radio 5 live

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars very thought provoking 26 Oct 2009
I bought this book after reading a rave review in the paper, it was I have to agree with the review a fantastic debut novel, Evie Wylde writes beautifully and gives a real insight into that part of Australia, the war and the patterns that emerge from dysfunctional family life, very interesting and different.
The reason I deduct a star is because sometimes you have to really concentrate to keep up with the fast introduction of many characters at the same time and the fact that the main characters jump location frequently.
I would definitely read another book by this author though, didn't expect the connection at the end and thought the way you are left to make your own conclusions was clever rather than frustrating which can often be the case.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A zinger of a novel. 20 Sep 2009
By R. Maas
So rare to find a book so free of cliche, and not stitched together by a cut-and-paste stylist. Full of wonderfully original descriptions that describe sensations and emotions precisely, and as if they are yours. A tale of brilliant images bleached by the Aussie sun, with a plot fringed with dark threats that lurk in memories or wait, nameless, hidden in the corn....
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sharks and chickens 6 Oct 2009
I can't remember the last time I enjoyed a book this much. I took After the Fire on holiday with me last month and rattled through it in a couple of sittings, then had to face up to the fact that I wasn't going to read anything that good again for the rest of my time away. And probably for the rest of the year.

The book follows two main characters and at first I had that feeling of leaning towards one of them and not caring as much about the other, but by the midpoint I was totally engrossed in both. Other reviewers have written about the book's ability to convey things that aren't spoken, and it is very good at the quiet intensity of unspoken emotion. But I was also blown away by the jungle warfare, the bar brawls, the blokes working in good honest backbreaking jobs and the shark encounter. And there's something going on with chickens too, but maybe I'm reading too much into that.

I've given the book five stars but I can't recommend it highly enough. Just brilliant.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Depth without being a heavy read 1 Aug 2010
By Alison TOP 500 REVIEWER
There is so much in this book that in many ways it is difficult to describe without over-simplifying it. Wyld's debut is complex while still being subtle, it has depth without being heavy and the suberb quality of the writing makes it very readable. The character of Australia is prominent and Wyld describes the Australian landscape vividly and beautifully. She uses metaphor and symbolism to make this an original book that doesn't fit the mould of so many other books.

The chapters alternate between Leon and Frank. Leon is growing up around the time of the Korean war and witnesses the after effects of war on his father. Leon himself is conscripted to fight in the Vietnam war when he becomes an adult. Frank's story is told in the present day and picks his story up as he moves to his family's beach shack to recover after the breakdown of his relationship. The traumas and tensions that the men experience shape their lives and the relationships with the people around them.

There are many themes explored but those of family, particularly fatherhood, are strong and thought provoking. While the book is ostensibly very male, it's not a certainly not book reserved for the male reader. I would imagine that this book would make an excellent book club choice as there is so much to think and talk about. I wouldn't hesitate to pick up the next book by Evie Wyld and I would highly recommend After the Fire for the reader who likes modern and contemporary fiction.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Stunning Debut of Things Left Unsaid 28 Dec 2009
By Simon Savidge Reads TOP 500 REVIEWER
`After the Fire, A Still Small Voice' is actually the tales of two separate men told in alternating chapters living in Australia told both in the present and in the past and not always in chronological order yet never confusing. It is really hard to tell you all about it without giving anything away but do bear with me as I will try and do my best without any spoilers and yet trying to cover everything that this wonderful book does.

The first of the men we meet is Frank. Having recently given up his life in Canberra after a rather rocky relationship he has moved to his Grandparents shack by the sea in an attempt to hide away from the world which he will have to live off, though in the end the world won't remain hidden, neighbours will be friendly, and he will need money and so takes a part time job in the local marina. Franks a tough character and as we get to know him better and the story of his youth, though he is only in his twenties roughly, you gain an insight into why.

Leon is the second male character. We meet him in his youth in a town, where his family are looked down on for being immigrants, as he learns the trade of his father's cake shop which when his father is sent to fight in Korea he must take over until his father comes back. Once his father returns he is a changed man and adds additional strain to the family home leaving Leon in charge for good. Only Leon himself then gets conscripted to fight in the Vietnam War and like his father the affects of war change him forever.

This makes the book sound quite simplistic and it's not the case as Wyld throws in quite a few other plots such as a delightful romance for Leon and a wonderful tale of a little girl breaking through Frank's tough exterior. To say anymore would simply give too much away.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Luminously good writing
The author captures and conveys a male view point with sure-footed skill. Her portrayal of characters, situations, landscape and weather are all impressive. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Booluv
2.0 out of 5 stars disappointing
Beginning was okay but seem to fizzle out halfway through - disappointing - confusing as to who was speaking most of the time and the whole episode of the missing girl didnt really... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Rhona Grace (
5.0 out of 5 stars A little gem of a read
Evie Wyld is a young author but one who is full of promise if this, her first novel, is an example of her work. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Plucked Highbrow
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning writing
This is a superbly written book. The evocation of place - Australian bush and Vietnamese jungle - is startlingly powerful. If you want action this is not the book for you. Read more
Published 8 months ago by TBFrance
5.0 out of 5 stars A thought-provoking book
After the Fire, a Still Small Voice offers a large scale examination of three generations of men fighting different wars as well as a close inspection of the experiences og coping... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Lange Tove Krebs
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing
I had big expectations of this novel having seen all the great reviews and it really didn't come up to scratch. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Janie U
3.0 out of 5 stars Damb Squib
There is endless potential in the theme of how men may be damaged when drafted to fight in distant lands for causes which do not arouse their allegiance, like the Korean or Vietnam... Read more
Published 10 months ago by Antenna
3.0 out of 5 stars Dull
Although well written I found this very dull to my taste. I didn't especially believe in the characters or care what happened to them. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Kindle Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars It's a great book
Excellent book. Has to be read slowly, there is so much in it. Basically the story of three men, byt mainly the son
Published 13 months ago by Marianna Lutyens
3.0 out of 5 stars Brooding on the Australian Coast
Looking at the largely very positive reviews of Evie Wyld's debut novel, I think it must have been one I just didn't quite 'get' - while I admired quite a lot about it, I found it... Read more
Published 15 months ago by Kate Hopkins
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