After The Fire, A Still Small Voice
After The Fire, A Still Small Voice was recently featured on BBC 2's The Culture Show 'New Novelists : 12 Of The Best' episode. Evie Wyld is British with Australian family and this is her first novel.
The novel immediately sets itself in 2006, by making a passing reference to the death of Australian wildlife expert Steve Irwin in its opening page; more as a means of setting location and atmosphere than anything else. An Australian story of fathers and sons, the books central character Frank has beaten a retreat to his grandparents long abandoned home following a bad break up.
The novel takes the format of switching alternate chapters between Frank and his father Leon, though Frank's chapters are roughly present day, Leon's take place first in his childhood at the time of the Korean war, which his father fights in and then later the Vietnam war which he fights in.
The book is really a study in the way in which emotional damage is passed along through generations, from Frank's grandfather onward, though the reader can connect with both Frank and Leon as characters, they themselves are disconnected. The remoteness of the characters is echoed through the remoteness of the landscape Frank chooses to live in, and his isolation as a local newcomer.
After The Fire....is a book which has a strong emotional depth without being hard or heavy to read, it's very easy "to get into" and conveys a sense of realistic character portrayals and outcomes. Too many books or films paint happy endings onto stories that real humans wish they could experience but don't because life isn't like that. Life is often broken and unfair and unhappy, the skill here is that Evie Wyld portrays this and succeeds in making her book moving but not depressing. It is thoughtful and reflective and descriptive. I wasn't overly sure about the subplot, which seems not to fit with the main focus of the nature of the father/son dynamic and is a bit unclear and unresolved.
I liked the book well enough, I found the chapters devoted to Frank very atmospheric and would probably read more work by Wyld in the future. 7/10