Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The Railwayman's Wife, by Ashley Hay

Atria Books, ISBN 9781501112171, April 2016

Ani Lachlan is a happily married woman in her thirties, with a young daughter, living in the coastal Australian village of Thirroul. It's far from the Australian plains where she grew up, but it's beautiful, and she and her railwayman husband Mac are happy there, in the years following World War II.

And then Mac is killed in a railway accident.

We get Ani and Mac's story in flashbacks, which frankly are sometimes a bit disjointed, though well-done in themselves. We also get the story of Ani moving forward after Mac's death, as a single mother, and as a woman adjusting to being a widow, working for the first time since her marriage, and getting to know the village she's living in in a new and different way.

She's also getting to know Roy McKinnon, a former teacher, a poet, and a war veteran returned from the war. Another newly returned veteran is Dr. Frank Draper. He grew up in Thirroul, and is back from the war apparently even more traumatized by what he experienced than McKinnon. They're all trying to find their way through a world that's changed unrecognizably from what they had planned and prepared for.

It's a flawed but compelling look at the painful recovery from the Second World War, for the soldiers, the doctors who among other things walked into the death camps and treated the survivors. And being set in Australia, it's a different look than Americans normally get from our own fiction about the era.

Not perfect, but well worth a read. Recommended.

I received a free electronic galley of this book from the publisher via NetGalley