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August 19, 2011 10:08 pm
In the sweltering summer of 1921, Davey Davies crouches under the kitchen table re-enacting a horrific incident from the Great War that he cannot consciously remember, far less talk about. To his wife, Non, he has been a changed man since he returned to their Welsh village, a husband only in name after his confession to an affair with one of the nurses who treated him. By finding out what happened to him in Flanders and afterwards, can she bring the man she still loves back to life?
The territory Mari Strachan stakes out is a familiar one, a patchwork of family secrets slowly unravelled and an act of official cruelty hidden by the fog of war. None of these revelations comes as much of a surprise. Yet the warmth of the storytelling offers compensation while, in the depiction of a nation seeking solace in radical politics and spiritualist seances, Strachan manages to bring something original to an old, old tale.
Blow on a Dead Man’s Embers, by Mari Strachan, Canongate, RRP£12.99, 300 pages
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