Saturday, March 28, 2015

First Reviews

Three reviews of The Ash Burner have appeared.

- Kerryn Goldsworthy, writing for the Sydney Morning HeraldThe Age, and Canberra Times:

Kári Gíslason published a memoir in 2011, The Promise of Iceland, that tells the extraordinary story of his family history. You can sense some of that material still haunting him in his debut novel, the story of a young man called Ted whose father brought him to Australia as a little boy. Ted's mother is long dead. They now live in the town of Lion Head, somewhere on the coast between Sydney and Brisbane, and while recuperating in hospital from a near-drowning, Ted meets the young couple who will become the most intimate friends of his teenage and early adult years. This is a beautifully written novel about the intensities of youth and of mourning, and the strangeness and potential tragedy of young love. Its characters are vivid, its landscapes evocative, and its narrative given shape and power by the revelation at the end.

- Chris Somerville, in Readings:

Midway through the book, a character, on the eve of his departure from his hometown, insists that his best friend Ted write him letters. ‘He thought you could say a lot more that way,’ Ted tells us, ‘that email was inferior.’ This attitude runs though the entirety of The Ash Burner; though it’s set in modern Australia, its sensibilities lie much more in the past. There are no actual spirits here, but nevertheless this is a novel that’s supremely haunted.

It begins with the teenage Ted throwing himself into the ocean, with a half-sense that he’ll somehow be able to find his dead mother. He’s swept onto the rocks, badly hurt, and pulled out by his father. While recuperating in hospital, Ted meets Anthony, a boy a few years ahead of him at school, and Claire, Anthony’s girlfriend.

The increasingly intense friendship between the three of them forms the bulk of the narrative, with Ted somewhat in awe of both of them and taking part in their plans to leave the town of Lion’s Head and move to Sydney. The story spans years, and though there is a quietness and subtlety to the characters’ relationships (Ted is criticised on several occasions for being far too serious) the narrative does take some surprising turns, with one of the novel’s final revelations hitting the right balance of being both shocking and wholly believable.

In Gíslason’s first book, a memoir
The Promise of Iceland, he showed that he was a nuanced writer, and here, with The Ash Burner, he has again shown his skill at mapping the subtle shifts in our lives. It’s a thoughtful work that should leave an impression long after it’s put down.

- Angie Andrewes, for Books and Publishing:

The Ash Burner is an insightful coming-of-age novel featuring a protagonist who is infinitely appealing. It grounds itself firmly in the art world and will appeal to fans of Craig Silvey’s Jasper Jones, Emily Bitto’s The Strays and Krissy Kneen’s Steeplechase.

Whitby, 2006