Fire on the Mountain by Jean McNeil

From TheBookbag
Jump to navigationJump to search

Fire on the Mountain by Jean McNeil

Mcneil Fire.jpg
Buy Fire on the Mountain by Jean McNeil at or

Category: Literary Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Ruth Wilson
Reviewed by Ruth Wilson
Summary: This is a remarkable and beautiful book about Nick, a man who is fleeing from his previous life and trying to uncover the life he wants to live, rather than the one he has fallen into. The story is a voyage of discovery to find out what Nick wants his life to be and if he has the courage to achieve it. That age-old dilemma of heart over head.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 250 Date: February 2018
Publisher: Legend Press
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1785078996

Share on: Facebook Follow us on Twitter Follow us on Instagram

This is an unusual book, in style it feels like a novel by E M Forster; with a deep study at the minutiae of life and thought, yet the plot and content is thoroughly modern. The bulk of the story is told through the perspective of Nick, and we see his point of view on life around him. The main characters of the book, however, are Pieter and Riaan, as it is these characters who fascinate Nick and are the focus of his contemplation and crisis.

We start the story confronted with Nick who has fled from his life and taken refuge with a family in the shadow of the Brandberg, an enormous mountain that shapes the life of the fictitious African town that surrounds it. We do not know what Nick has fled from, and he does not know the people he has fled to, but Nick has an unmistakable sense of rightness about his situation and from that place of safety we start to piece together his life through his contemplations on the situation he finds himself in. Just as Nick is finding his feet and beginning to feel secure he meets Riaan who turns Nick's world upside down. Perhaps Riaan is everything Nick wants to be but isn't, perhaps they are so opposite that they get along. Nick doesn't seem to know why he feels so right with Riaan but he feels able to finally reveal what happened and what he was running away from.

The characters in the book are very unusual, there is no sense of likeability, there are no good guys and bad guys, they are just people who are all capable of being kind, argumentative, changeable and as a result the book feels very real, very autobiographical, which I found very interesting. No particular character feels any more important than any other, their power comes from their influence on each other and how that influence shapes their decisions, choices and their characters. Equally, the plot is very unusual in that there is no specific plot, rather you are witnessing a particular group of people in a particular point of time, their lives existed before the book was written and there is a sense that it continues afterwards and we are simply seeing a snapshot of their lives at that point of time. There are no great moments of action but rather dozens of powerful smaller actions that in turn influence the actions of the people around them. Again, it felt very real and intimate.

This is not a book for those wanting fast moving action but it really is a fantastic book, the description of the African landscape and people is not grandiose and lyrical but rather as though Nick is seeing the world anew for the first time and the majesty and beauty is through introspection and contemplation. The books power is through its realism and its subtlety. It really is very beautiful and I would heartily recommend it. For something similar which you could share with young children you could also try How the Sun Got to Coco's House by Bob Graham. We also have a review of McNeil's The Dhow House.

Please share on: Facebook Facebook, Follow us on Twitter Twitter and Follow us on Instagram Instagram

Buy Fire on the Mountain by Jean McNeil at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Fire on the Mountain by Jean McNeil at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Fire on the Mountain by Jean McNeil at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Fire on the Mountain by Jean McNeil at


Like to comment on this review?

Just send us an email and we'll put the best up on the site.