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Dead Man's Embers [Paperback]

Mari Strachan
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
RRP: 8.99
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Book Description

7 Jun 2012
In the aftermath of the Great War, Non Davies wakes one morning to find her husband crouching underneath the kitchen table in a cold sweat, shouldering an imaginary rifle. What has changed her Davey so completely? A clue arrives inside a mysterious letter, which takes her to London in search of the answer. When she returns home, Non finds that the dark secrets of Davey's past are working their way ever closer to the surface. She has to summon all her courage and compassion to restore her beloved husband and guard the fragile happiness of her war-weary village.

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Dead Man's Embers + The Earth Hums in B Flat
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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Canongate Books Ltd; Main edition (7 Jun 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1847675328
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847675323
  • Product Dimensions: 2.3 x 12.7 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 381,565 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


With discernment and tenderness, Mari Strachan traces the Davies family's slow journey towards recovery over the course of a long, hot summer...[The novel's] fire takes hold and burns deep - Literary Review

About the Author

Mari Strachan and her husband live on a tiny smallholding in the hills of Ceredigion, West Wales. Blow on a Dead Man's Embers is her second novel, following the acclaimed The Earth Hums in B Flat.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Captivating 14 May 2012
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I thoroughly enjoyed Mari Strachan's first novel, The Earth Hums in B Flat, set in rural Wales in the 1950s with its unforgettable 12 and a bit narrator, Gwenni. Blow on a Dead Man's Embers is set in an earlier era, it is 1921 and Non (Rhiannon) knows she should be relieved to have her husband Davey safely returned from the Great War where so many perished. Davey might be physically present but Non worries about his emotional and mental state and she is determined to "fix" him and make him whole again even if it means subterfuge on her part.

This is such a beautifully written story peopled with vibrant, interesting characters. I felt like I really got to know Non and her step-children including the quiet, reticent Osian and the wilful, teenage Meg. I felt immersed in the intensity of the interminable heatwave assailing the small Welsh village and its inhabitants and the fact I was also brought up in a tiny, remote village made the characters resonate with me even more. Life is hard, the laundry is never-ending but there is little for it but to just get by the best one can. However it's not all doom and gloom and comic interludes are provided by Maggie Ellis, the village gossip (my village still has one like her!) and Non's dour mother-in-law, Catherine Davies.

As well as the stifling ambiance of village life we have the global issues of love and loss, post-traumatic stress disorder, dementia, autism, the struggle for Irish independence, medical advances, women's rights, the growth of the Labour party. Change is coming whether the villagers like it or not.

Mari Strachan has a knack of engaging the reader almost immediately, drawing you into this other world, immersing you in another era - highly recommended particularly if you enjoy excellent storytelling in a rural setting. I'm really looking forward to seeing what Mari comes up with next
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A moving and compelling story 23 Nov 2011
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Blow on a Dead Man's Embers is set in a small community in Wales in the 1920s, just a few years after the end of World War I. The war has left many women grieving for a husband, a son or a brother and Non (Rhiannon) Davies is one of the lucky ones whose husband Davey has come home. But although Davey is physically unharmed he is still haunted by his experiences in the trenches. When Non finds him hiding under the kitchen table one morning she grows concerned for his mental health, but she knows that before she can help him she needs to find out exactly what happened to him during the war. Could a letter from a woman called Angela in London hold the answers?

As well as being a story about the aftermath of the Great War, this is also the story of Non and her relationships with the various members of her family. She has two teenage stepchildren to take care of, in addition to seven-year-old Osian who appears to be autistic (although this condition would not have been understood in the 1920s). Then there's Non's nephew, Gwydion, whose parents disapprove of his politics and his Irish girlfriend, and her mother-in-law, Catherine Davies, who makes no secret of her dislike for Non. Even the book's minor characters are well-drawn and believable, from the Davies' interfering neighbour, Maggie Ellis, to their tame crow, Herman.

One of the things I loved about this book was the way it looks at so many different aspects of World War I and what it was like in the years immediately afterwards. As well as Davey's shell shock (what we would now call post traumatic stress disorder) we also meet other former soldiers with various physical or mental problems caused by the war.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fine writing... 18 Aug 2011
By jaffareadstoo TOP 500 REVIEWER
When Non Davies's husband, Davey,returns from the Great War, she is relieved to have him home in one piece, and yet Davey bears the unseen scars of war, and still lives with the horror of the trenches. Non must use all her skills, and do what must be done in order to keep her family together.

This quietly understated book is a delight to read, the story gripped me from its opening chapter, and kept me enthralled until its emotional conclusion. There is an underlying strength which comes from fine writing, great attention to detail, and the author's natural ability to tell a good story.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Deeply moving yet comic gem 5 Aug 2011
Blow on a Dead Man's Embers is ostensibly about a man who comes back home from the First World War, shellshocked and unable to find his place in life. But it's actually about more than that, much more. The story starts simply enough, but soon the lives of the protagonists - Davey the soldier, Non his wife and many more - begin to weave a powerful and compelling tale around straightforward and everyday life (often with plenty of humour) in the 1920s.

As soon as you think you've got the book sussed, the action leaps out of the claustrophobic confines of the village and into a world of mystic seers and a trip to London, where Non encounters more evidence of the grim realities of the great conflict, along with extraordinary news that affects her personally.

There are too many strands to the tales to cover them all - I'll leave that to the other reviews - but this is an terrific follow-up to mari Strachan's first novel, The Earth Hums in B Flat. That was an excellent read but Blow on a Dead Man's Embers offers a far richer, deeper experience.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Another good read.
A jolly good read by Ms Strachen if a little more predictable than the Earth Hums in b Flat. I am a bit biased because I live near Harlech.
Published 10 days ago by A D Roscoe
4.0 out of 5 stars Good second novel
Really enjoyed reading 'B Flat' so wondered if this would be as good. For all the reasons that I loved the first novel, I also loved Dead Mans Embers. Read more
Published 23 days ago by mrsmaz
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book
Really enjoyed her previous book and this was great too. Unusual characters and you really get the feel for their lives.
Published 2 months ago by Lolo B
4.0 out of 5 stars Dead Man's Embers
Loved this book - loved the setting, and the period. You seem to read more about the upper classes and how the Great War affected them, and not about the lower classes.
Published 3 months ago by Mrs S White
5.0 out of 5 stars A gem of a book
When I started reading, I was unsure that I wanted to continue. I am so glad that I did. Non is a lovely character, with a complex, unusual upbringing for the times. Read more
Published 5 months ago by BarbaraM
5.0 out of 5 stars Mari Strachan
Another lovely, easy read from Mari Strachan. May not be everyone's cup of tea as there's no violence or strong language. It's a delightful novel.
Published 11 months ago by JJ
5.0 out of 5 stars Blew me away!
If you've ever holidayed in North Wales, esp Llyn Peninsula there are so many places you can see in your mind when you're reading this beautiful story. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Ellen Gray
5.0 out of 5 stars slow start, great book
It does have a bit of a slow start, but is certainly worth it in the end. Great characters, great story.
Published 20 months ago by Andy Rowlett
1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing read
I was very engaged by the sample and really looking forward to reading the book. However, I found it repetitive, shallow and unsatisfying. Read more
Published on 1 Jun 2012 by AuntieSue
5.0 out of 5 stars So evocative of the time and place
Blow on a Dead Man's Embers is set in Wales in 1921. Non Davies is the main character and her husband, Davey, has started to have flashbacks to his time in the war, which involve... Read more
Published on 11 Mar 2012 by Nicola
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