Thursday 10 July 2014

Review ~ The Railwayman's Wife by Ashley Hay

Allen and Unwin

She had never appreciated before the lovely anonymity of the unremarkable life.’

The Railwayman’s Wife is an emotional and at times quite melancholy story which explores the effects of grief and the consequences of living life in the aftermath of devastating loss.

The coastal town of Thirroul is redolent with the smell of the ocean and the sound of its rail road, but beneath the shimmering surface of beach front and train track, three very different people clarify the meaning of loss. For Anikka Lachlan, the eponymous railwayman’s wife, the devastating loss of her husband means that life will never be the same again and yet life goes on for her and her daughter Isabel. War poet, Roy McKinnon has returned from fighting in the war in Europe but in his sadness he is now a poet without words and cannot find the inspiration he searches for so desperately. Doctor Frank Draper is haunted by what he saw when he helped to liberate the concentration camps and now his cold detachment disconnects him from those who seek to love him. Over the space of about a year, these three characters meet and form a relationship and it is their shocking stories which form the very heart and soul of the novel.

 Beautifully descriptive, the gentleness of the narrative is quite mesmerising and the tender exploration of lives deeply affected by unhappiness is done in a compassionate and sensitive way. There are some lovely lyrical moments which encompass the beauty of literature and poetry and the quiet homage to the writing of D. H. Lawrence, who visited this part of Australia in 1932, is done as a charming and unpretentious tribute.

I was quite enchanted by The Railwayman’s Wife; Anikka’s quiet dignity encapsulates the true strength of the novel and the fragility of her heartache combined with the stoicism of the ‘carry on regardless’ generation allows a thought provoking glimpse into the restrictions of grief and the vulnerability of the human spirit.


It must be said that there are mixed reviews about the ending of the book which I thought was in keeping with the overall 'feel' of the novel and as such was entirely satisfied with it ~ but as always ,I'll let you make up your own mind.

I read this book on behalf of as part of their reader’s review panel.

More panel reviews can be found here

The Railwayman’s Wife is available in paperback from all good bookshops


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