Review 1882: After the Fire, A Still Small Voice

After the Fire, A Still Small Voice is Evie Wyld’s debut novel about how family trauma can pass down the generations. In alternate chapters, it follows Frank Collard in the present time and Leon 40 years earlier. Maybe I was dense, but it took me a while to realize that Leon is Frank’s father.

Frank has just split up with his girlfriend when he decides to restart his life. He leaves Canberra and drives to a shack on the eastern coast that his grandparents purchased years ago and where he spent holidays as a boy. He gets an occasional job loading boats. It’s a primitive life, and the loneliness starts to get to him.

Leon trains under his father to be a pastry chef and takes over the bakery after his father, in gratitude for the country that took in himself and his wife, World War II Jewish refugees, volunteers for the Korean War. Leon’s father returns damaged, unable to work, so his parents leave Leon, ending up in the beach shack. Then Leon is conscripted for Vietnam and has his own damaging experiences.

I can’t come up with the reference for this, but I remember several years ago reading a post by someone complaining about women writing like men. The implication was that they were doing so to be taken more seriously by male editors and publishers. In particular, Evie Wyld’s All the Birds, Singing was mentioned with the remark that you didn’t even know if the main character was male or female for some time. I didn’t agree that (1) just because you don’t know the sex of the main character means that the author is writing like a man (look at The Towers of Trebizond) or (2) Wyld was writing like a man in All the Birds, Singing. I certainly didn’t have that impression. However, the feel of After the Fire, a Still Small Voice is very masculine, which makes sense with her male protagonists.

The only other observation I have about the novel is that it seemed a bit all over the place for me. Perhaps this is because of my initial confusion about the relationship between the two main characters. I guess I wasn’t paying attention to last names, and Leon’s isn’t mentioned right away. In any case, for a long time I wondered where the novel was going. Also, I didn’t much like either Frank or Leon, although Leon was okay until Vietnam. But Frank’s problem isn’t really explained, and he has major anger issues.

Related Posts

All the Birds, Singing

The Bass Rock

The Towers of Trebizond

2 thoughts on “Review 1882: After the Fire, A Still Small Voice

  1. Penelope Gough July 5, 2022 / 4:29 pm

    I am very keen on this author and I really related to this book. Her sense of time and place really spoke to me. I agreed with some of your comments about slight confusion but overall all her work is wonderful

    • whatmeread July 5, 2022 / 7:15 pm

      Yes, I like her very much. I think this was my least favorite of her books, but maybe only because she was not quite as skilled.

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