With thanks to Anne Cater and Orenda Books for having me on the Blog Tour for Helen Fitzgerald’s upcoming release Ash Mountain.
Fran hates her hometown, and she thought she’d escaped. But her father is ill, and needs care. Her relationship is over, and she hates her dead-end job in the city, anyway.
She returns home to nurse her dying father, her distant teenage daughter in tow for the weekends. There, in the sleepy town of Ash Mountain, childhood memories prick at her fragile self-esteem, she falls in love for the first time, and her demanding dad tests her patience, all in the unbearable heat of an Australian summer.
As past friendships and rivalries are renewed, and new ones forged, Fran’s tumultuous home life is the least of her worries, when old crimes rear their heads and a devastating bushfire ravages the town and all of its inhabitants…
Simultaneously a warm, darkly funny portrait of small-town life – and a woman and a land in crisis – and a shocking and truly distressing account of a catastrophic event that changes things forever, Ash Mountain is a heart-breaking slice of domestic noir, and a disturbing disaster thriller that you will never forget…
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Cast your mind back to a time before COVID-19… I know it’s difficult, but try. Remember Australia was on fire? Yes? You’d forgotten hadn’t you?
Ash Mountain is a story of so many layers. It’s like an onion. A big orange, fiery onion. There are minor spoilers… very minor.
Layer 1: The story centres on Fran who has moved home to care for her elderly father following a stroke which has left him paralysed and in need of 24 hour care. Fran has also recently split from the father of her 16 year old daughter Vonny. Although he has pledged to always be there for her as a best friend that looks unlikely with the appearance of a new woman in his life.
Layer 2: Fran was a teenage mother. Her son Dante, who is now in his late 20’s, was conceived when she was 15 during what can only be described as rape on the school playing fields. The father was a boarder at the local catholic school at which Fran was a day pupil.
Layer 3: Following the discovery of some compromising photos hidden away in the cellar of the school, Fran makes the realisation that child abuse was taking place during her time there. Not only that, it may be that she herself was abused.
Layer 4: During the story Fran falls for local hunk, The Captain. The Captain has a daughter. A daughter with whom Vonny, Fran’s daughter, falls head over heels for.
Layer 5: The Fire. A bushfire is heading straight for Ash Mountain. It’s a monster and there was very little warning for the residents. At the end of the book there’s a fascinating few paragraphs from a man who lived through the recent fires – it’s his daughter who features on the cover of Ash Mountain. That’s not a stock image – that actually happened.
See? Many, many layers.
You would think that with so many storylines on the go that this book would be an absolute nightmare to keep track of but it really doesn’t feel that way. Each chapter is from a different time period – either Fran’s school days, the days leading up to the fire or the day of the fire. It’s also told from different perspectives including that of Fran, Vonny and Dante. This means that we get a proper feel for what’s happening at Ash Mountain, the feelings of the characters and a glimpse into what’s to come.
I absolutely loved Ash Mountain. Helen Fitzgerald’s style of writing is completely engaging and so easy to read. The story almost reads as a diary in some places, it’s intimate and made me feel for the characters and care about what happened to them. It’s also laugh out loud funny in places – my particular favourite is Fran taking her father ‘out’ to church… as an iPad FaceTime call… on a stick.
Ash Mountain is fabulous – a definite summer, sun-lounger, lose yourself for a few hours book. If any of us were getting a summer, sun-lounger, lose yourself for a few hours holiday in 2020.
Ash Mountain is published by Orenda Books on 14th May 2020.
I received a complimentary copy of Ash Mountain from Orenda Books in return for my honest review. Which this is.
Order your (immediately available!) e-copy direct from the publisher: http://orendabooks.co.uk/ebookstore/?/Ash+Mountain/&bid=9781913193294
Or support your local independent bookstore and pre-order your paperback copy from hive.co.uk