Fire on the Mountain Paperback – 15 Feb 2018
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"This is a remarkable and beautiful book [its] power is through its realism and its subtlety"--Bookbag<br \><br \>
'Sharp and evocative'--Times Literary<br \><br \>
'Stunningly written'--New York Times<br \><br \>
'Completely absorbing, eminently readable...'--Daily Mail<br \><br \>
'A formidable novel ... The writing is searing and fierce, even the most minutely explored character has a complexity that allows for empathy'--Read and Review blog
'Gives you time to think and appreciate the lyrical quality of the writing and the unique landscapes'--Madhouse Family Reviews
'A complex, mesmerising read ... McNeil has created so authentic a narrative that the reader becomes utterly immersed ... a triumph of a book'--Linda's Book bag
About the Author
Jean McNeil is a prolific fiction and non- fiction author whose work has been nominated for and won several major international awards. She is Reader in Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia. Her first novel with Legend Press, and 12th overall publication was The Dhow House (2016). Follow Jean on Twitter at @ jeanmcneilwriteSee all Product description
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Nick is a man who has seen much of the world in its extremes. He has changed careers to become a logistics manager for a NGO, rushing to the scenes of disasters and events where there is massive threat to life. He feels that he is difficult to shock, essentially in control, able to predict what will happen and crucially what to do about it. Suddenly he finds himself adrift in an amazing place, of beauty and scenery almost beyond description. He turns up on the doorstep of an unknown couple, a tenuous link means that he has never met Pieter and Sara before they generously offer him a flat and more in terms of companionship, largely as almost another son. When their son Riaan turns up for Christmas, he introduces so much uncertainty, yet so much attraction, Nick is alternatively mesmerised and angry. Riaan becomes more demanding and emotionally challenging, Nick discovers so much more not only about this strange young man but also about himself. There are flashbacks as he recalls people in his rootless past, and he questions everything he has ever experienced. A perilous journey has many implications for Nick and others, as life changing revelations occur.
This is a book of contrasts and challenges for the characters. I was disappointed that the women are a little one dimensional and quickly withdraw in the face of men’s conversations and experiences. Sara, Tanya and the other women mentioned in Nick’s past are not really developed as individuals. I really enjoyed the descriptions of the landscapes and the buildings within them, the concept of the mountain on the edge of the sea, the bleakness of a desert with no touch of modern developments. I had not appreciated that such vast landscapes existed and were not more tamed. The writing is intense and self consciously meaningful; McNeil is sometimes seemingly striving to keep the melodrama in check, as experience piles on events. This is not so much a book to enjoy as experience, it is a powerful comment on landscape and people within it. I was grateful to receive a review copy of this book, and recommend it for its strong view of men within a world which is almost alien in its strangeness.
This changes when Nicklaas takes a trip into the outback with Riaan and stops playing analytical games with his own head. The impeccable politeness which runs through the first half of the book is broken. It all becomes honest. More interesting. Worth the wait.
And the style of writing is a delight. I first came across Jean McNeil’s descriptive magic in The Dhow House, and her portrayal of a sometimes harsh, sometimes beautiful, sub-Saharan country is just as beautifully crafted here. It’s great prose. She uses sight, sound and smell to recreate scenes of a beautiful garden, a passionate encounter, a moment in wartime. Her description of how a leopard will scalp a human before lunging in for the kill isn’t something I’ll easily forget! Thanks so much to Legend Press for sending me a preview copy.