The Railwayman’s Wife by Ashley Hay
ARC, e-book, 288 pages
April 5, 2016
Source: Received for Review for tour with HFVBT
Amidst the strange, silent aftermath of World War II, a widow, a poet, and a doctor search for lasting peace and fresh beginnings in this internationally acclaimed, award-winning novel.
When Anikka Lachlan’s husband, Mac, is killed in a railway accident, she is offered—and accepts—a job at the Railway Institute’s library and searches there for some solace in her unexpectedly new life. But in Thirroul, in 1948, she’s not the only person trying to chase dreams through books. There’s Roy McKinnon, who found poetry in the mess of war, but who has now lost his words and his hope. There’s Frank Draper, trapped by the guilt of those his medical treatment and care failed on their first day of freedom. All three struggle to find their own peace, and their own new story.
But along with the firming of this triangle of friendship and a sense of lives inching towards renewal come other extremities—and misunderstandings. In the end, love and freedom can have unexpected ways of expressing themselves.
The Railwayman’s Wife explores the power of beginnings and endings, and how hard it can sometimes be to tell them apart. Most of all, it celebrates love in all its forms, and the beauty of discovering that loving someone can be as extraordinary as being loved yourself.I feel the need to preface this review with the fact that I seem to find myself always in a state of being conflicted to not enjoying literary fiction books. This is something I never seem to know about prior to starting the book, but rapidly figure it out. It was this way with Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel and it was the same here with The Railwayman’s Wife by Ashley Hay.
I was initially intrigued by this novel primarily based on the setting. I have read extremely few novels set in Australia and the idea of this location just following the end of WWII had a lot of promise. As I am very unfamiliar with this locale, I was pleased with how brilliantly Hay is able to bring it to life. The descriptions of the mountains, the sea, the beach and more are just beautifully illuminated and if I closed my eyes I could absolutely picture myself right there with the characters.
The novel focuses on how life changes essentially following loss or grief. For Ani, she has lost her husband; for Roy and Frank, they have lost a sense of themselves after the horrors that they experienced during the war. They are now in this idyllic location and trying to come to terms with what their lives mean and how to go on. I found Ani’s loss hard to connect to for quite some time as I didn’t feel her relationship to Mac was well established prior to his death, but that does develop overtime through various remembrances. Roy and Frank’s loss was easier to connect with because I already had the preconceived ideas of what they had experienced, even though we spend less time with them than with Ani. To this end, I think that Hay reasonably supported the theme. I appreciated seeing how these three people from different life places and having different experiences prior to their grief coped with that loss.
The problem I have typically with literary fiction, and again in The Railwayman’s Wife, is that nothing really happens. Mac’s death, which happens off screen, is at the very beginning of the novel and we really just see Ani coping with that, and she comes off as very wooden. There is one other major event that comes in the last few pages of the book that also felt as a bit of a letdown because nothing had happened throughout the middle 150 pages to build me up for it. I wasn’t emotionally invested in these characters and had no real concern for how their lives panned out. There was one plot point that I was banking on seeing and it was never to be, which was a little disappointing.
Huge props to the author for coming up with the poems features throughout the novel as created by our resident poet, Roy. I have always struggled with poetry, so I’m always in awe of those that can write it.
My opinion is certainly not the only one, so if you find that you tend to enjoy literary novels, I would go ahead and pick up this book. For me, it wasn’t my favorite simply because I like more action in my novels.
Reviews of this book by other bloggers:
book excerpt to see if this book is for you!
Buy the Book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | RJ Julia
Also by Ashley Hay:
The Body in the Clouds
Find Ashley Hay: Website
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