After the Fire, A Still Small Voice by Evie Wyld

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After the Fire, A Still Small Voice by Evie Wyld

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Category: Literary Fiction
Rating: 1/5
Reviewer: Robert James
Reviewed by Robert James
Summary: Two men have a miserable time. Actually, make that three men including this reader.
Buy? No Borrow? No
Pages: 304 Date: April 2010
Publisher: Vintage
ISBN: 978-0099535836

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Frank has moved to his grandparents’ shack by the sea after a tough end to a difficult relationship, and is trying to settle down, get a job, and get to know his new neighbours. He seems to be doing well, until two girls disappear, with suspicion falling on him. Decades earlier, Leon is left to run his family’s cake shop as his father is sent to fight in Korea, before he in turn is conscripted to serve in Vietnam. Things happen to him, although very few of them are of any interest whatsoever. Is there a connection between Frank and Leon? Will either or both of them manage to find happiness? Can author Evie Wyld give us any reason to care?

The answers to the above three questions are yes, possibly, and with characters this flat, certainly not. The book took me about a month to read. It’s not that it’s particularly long – it’s around 300 pages – it was just that I really, really, really couldn’t bring myself to sustain any interest in it for longer than 10 minutes or so at a time. For a comparison, I read We, The Drowned, which weighs in at well over twice the length of this novel, in not much more than a weekend, and can generally polish off a book of this length in a single day. When I’m interested in a book, I’m a fast reader. This is one of the few I’ve reviewed which had me wishing I didn’t have to persevere with it. I’d normally criticise the anti-climatic ending, but to be honest any ending was a relief. I find it hard to belief that an author can create a cast spanning two different eras and not give me a half-decent reason to feel anything much for any of them. It’s not even that they’re repulsive characters – they’re just not remotely engaging in any way.

I should probably balance out my criticism by saying that this book was shortlisted for the Orange Award for New Writers and actually won the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize; it also has a host of positive reviews on various websites and in several national newspapers. I’m opening myself up to the possibility that it’s a deep work of literature which I’m just not sophisticated enough to appreciate fully – and if that’s the case, that’s fine, although I‘d class myself as reasonably well-read, honestly! From a personal point of view, however, there’s no way on earth I could ever recommend this.

I'd still like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

Further reading suggestion: For a much better literary treatment of several generations, try the aforementioned Danish epic, We The Drowned by Carsten Jensen.

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