The Railwayman's Wife
This book can be downloaded and read in Apple Books on your Mac or iOS device.
For fans of The Light Between Oceans, this “exquisitely written, true book of wonders” (Geraldine Brooks, Pulitzer Prize-winning author) explores the aftermath of World War II in an Australian seaside town, and the mysterious poem that changes the lives of those who encounter it.
In 1948, in a town overlooking the vast, blue ocean, Anikka Lachlan has all she ever wanted—until a random act transforms her into another postwar widow, destined to raise her daughter on her own. Awash in grief, she looks for answers in the pages of her favorite books and tries to learn the most difficult lesson of all: how to go on living.
A local poet, Roy McKinnon, experiences a different type of loss. How could his most powerful work come out of the brutal chaos of war, and why is he now struggling to regain his words and his purpose in peacetime? His childhood friend Dr. Frank Draper also seeks to reclaim his pre-war life but is haunted by his failure to help those who needed him most—the survivors of the Nazi concentration camps.
Then one day, on the mantle of her sitting room, Ani finds a poem. She knows neither where it came from, nor who its author is. But she has her suspicions. An unexpected and poignant love triangle emerges, between Ani, the poem, and the poet—whoever he may be.
Written in clear, shining prose, The Railwayman’s Wife explores the power of beginnings and endings—and how difficult it can be to tell them apart. It is an exploration of life, loss, tragedy, and joy, of connection and separation, longing and acceptance, and an unadulterated celebration of love that “will have you feeling every emotion at once” (Bustle).
Melancholy Meandering Through Grief
The Railwayman’s Wife by Ashley Hay is a melancholy yet beautiful tale of love, loss and grief. This story is set in the small coastal village of Thirroul, New South Wales, Australia a couple years after the end of WWII.
Hay’s prose is exquisite. Her vivid descriptions made for bucolic images of the town and its people while reading. The Railwayman’s Wife is told in dual time periods; the story of Ani’s and Mac’s early relationship is interspersed with the story of Ani’s grief after his fatal accident. The novel proceeds at a leisurely pace with most of the action taking place in the minds of the main characters as they struggle to move on post trauma.
Anikka and Mackenzie Lachlan have been married for over 10 years, and they have a precocious 10 year old daughter named Isabel. The close-knit family doesn’t have a lot, but they creatively show their love for one another with unique gifts and outings. Their idyllic life by the beach includes shelling, bird watching, and cartwheels on the beach. While they are untouched by the war, several of the town’s men have returned with deep psychological wounds. Roy McKinnon, teacher turned poet, is struck by the beauty of his hometown, but it doesn’t inspire him to write as the horrors of war did. Dr. Frank Draper is deeply affected by the POW who he couldn’t save during the war, and he struggles to find the confidence needed to resume his practice at home and to reconnect with his girlfriend, Iris McKinnon (Roy’s sister).
This motely group of grievers meet at the town library which, along with books, plays a central role in the story. Their inner turmoil is evident through their literature and poetry discussions. Ani’s mixed emotions over the loss of her husband are as clear as Roy’s growing affection for her. The dynamics among the three are interesting, and Hay’s story seems to question whether a happily-ever-after is ever possible.
Our nature as readers is to look for characters to arrive at a destination at the end of the story, not just to enjoy their company for a brief part of their journey. The Railwayman’s Wife is beautifully written and explores grief, loss and the complexities of love. It leaves you with much to ponder. There is no big, explosive culminating event that leads to the quintessential HEA, but The Railwayman’s Wife is an enjoyable meandering through the lives of Thirroul’s survivors.
3.5 - 4 stars