The 1914-1918 war is over and Davey has returned home to Wales and his wife Non, uninjured physically but severely traumatised. As her husband veers between cold politeness and abject terror of unseen dangers, Non strives to restore normality to family life, but yet more tensions constantly intrude. Haunted by her own past, she worries about the children, especially her adopted son, Osian, without speech but a gifted woodcarver, and tries to bear the constant criticism of her interfering mother-in-law.
Meanwhile outside conflicts impinge when first her cousin Gwydion espouses the Irish republican cause, and later a former soldier turned tramp arrives, apparently knowing the secret of Davey's war experience. Non struggles to help Davey back to health but deceit, guilt and even violence must play their part before he is fully restored to her and she has laid her own demons.
Mari Strachan's absorbing, many-layered second novel reveals the deep and long-lasting effect of the First World War on private lives, and the impact of the major changes it brought, even to small Welsh villages. Tracing the painful process of mourning, readjustment and responses to the unprecedented threats of peacetime, Blow on a Dead Man's Embers with its sensitively drawn characters presents a memorable evocation of a family and community struggling to cope with the past and face the future.
‘The lingering sorrow of war is given a distinctive and potent treatment in Mari Strachan’s second novel.’
The Times Literary Supplement
‘Strachan's finest gift is a talent for telling stories with grace and compassion. The book has momentum from first to last.’