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After the Fire, A Still Small Voice Paperback – 13 Aug 2009

4.2 out of 5 stars 68 customer reviews

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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: 14.3 x 2.6 x 22.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (68 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,498,058 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

Review

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)

Review

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

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
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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By MisterHobgoblin TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 19 Feb. 2016
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
After The Fire has garnered many positive reviews. It must be good. But I’m afraid I just didn’t get it.

Ostensibly following three generations of men, we see how war damages not only the combatants but also their families. Told in two sets of interleaving chapters, we find Frank Collard fleeing a normal life in Canberra (can one actually have a normal life in Canberra?) for a cabin on the coast. He seems to be unfussed about mod-cons, is in no hurry to get to know his new neighbours, and doesn’t seem to have much of a gameplan. He seems to have some family history in the area but it’s not quite clear what that might be. And in the other set of chapters, we meet Leon, initially a young boy helping out in his parents’ cake shop, watch as his father Roman heads off to fight in Korea, and then travel with Leon to Viet Nam.

The problem I had was that the two narratives did not seem to have enough connection. It’s interesting that this should feel the case because, unlike some novels of interleaved narratives, the connection seems fairly clear – although sometimes appearances can be deceiving… No, the real issue is that apart from bridal figures sculpted from sugar, there is very little continuity or commonality to the two stories. In one, men go to war. In the other, a man runs away from his wife and his life.

The stories themselves have some good detailing, but they are pretty slow and don’t seem to be balanced or paced quite right. The human drama is confined to a few pages of each narrative with large amounts of meandering. In Frank’s narrative, when the drama actually starts it gets quite confusing and it’s not clear – to this reader at least – exactly what his motivation is for a somewhat bizarre three day escapade.
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Format: Paperback
`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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Format: Paperback
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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