I’m thrilled to be sharing my review today as part of the blog tour for the paperback publication of Ash Mountain. Huge thanks to Anne Cater for my blog tour invite and to Karen Sullivan for my review copy of the book.
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…
I’ve been a huge fan of Helen Fitzgerald’s writing for many years now and enjoy her dark and often shocking observations of human nature in all it’s disturbing forms. I wasn’t sure she could match the genius of the multiple award winning Worst Case Scenario but Ash Mountain has once again proved that having the right publisher (the wonderful Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books) has led Helen Fitzgerald to produce some of her best work to date. Ash Mountain is a very clever concept-in fact it’s so clever that you don’t even realise how clever it is until you reach the very end! Ash Mountain is one of those books that I wanted to go back and read again the minute I finished it-yep, it’s THAT good!
It’s tough returning to your hometown when you’ve moved away-it’s very easy to turn into a petulant teenager again when living back with your parents! Fran has had to return to look after her sick father taking with her her two children. As if this isn’t tough enough to cope with, being home is stirring up memories of her childhood. The small Australian town is brought vibrantly to life as Fran encounters its inhabitants who also evoke memories of the past. As the unbearable summer heat builds to an oppressive weight on the towns people, old secrets start to squirm out and a bush fire could end burgeoning romances before they have taken root…
On one hand this is a disaster drama that builds to a a terrifying crescendo but on the other it’s an exquisitely delivered insight into life in a small town where there are no secrets except those that are too big for everyone to comprehend. It’s dark humour cuts through the disturbing content so that you don’t know whether to laugh or cry at some of the shocking circumstances that take place. And that’s what I love about Helen Fitzgerald-she isn’t afraid addressing the elephant in the room. Just because we find things uncomfortable doesn’t mean we should sweep them under the proverbial carpet. Yes there are some unpleasant themes discussed here but LIFE can be unpleasant and unpredictable so why not!?
You can probably tell I feel very strongly about this book and can’t recommend it highly enough. Stunningly brilliant from start to finish!
Helen FitzGerald is the bestselling author of ten adult and young adult thrillers, including The Donor (2011) and The Cry (2013), which was longlisted for the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year, and is now a major drama for BBC1. Her 2019 dark comedy thriller Worst Case Scenario was a Book of the Year in both The Guardian and Daily Telegraph. Helen worked as a criminal justice social worker for over fifteen years. She grew up in Victoria, Australia, and now lives in Glasgow with her husband.