After the Fire by Evie Wyld

Strange choice of subject matter for a first time young female novelist. Evie Wyld has chosen to write a novel about male worlds as rudimentary and imminently violent as the landscapes in which her novel is set. Clearly a choice that took her way outside all her comfort zones. I’m not convinced it was the right choice as, for me, she never quite appeared in command of her characters or her story. The story alternates between a father and a son. Except the father is always shown younger than the son, which is interesting. However it’s as if the father begins to elude Wyld half way through the novel and his sections become shorter and shorter and the architecture becomes increasingly uneven when Leon is sent to Vietnam. Vietnam isn’t convincing. Nor is the defining animosity the son appears to feel for the father. In fact often her characterisation of males seems a bit stereotypical and simplistic. What she can do however is write incredibly well. My favourite character was Sal, a female waif and child of nature and my favourite sections of the book are when Leon is making his cakes. Wyld’s insightful sensitivity to sensibility shines through here, making it even more odd that she chooses to almost exclusively focus on characters who largely shun sensibility. After the Fire is more of a promising novel than an exciting or satisfying one. But there’s enough brilliance here to make me want to read her next novel.

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