Title: Ash Mountain
Author: Helen Fitzgerald
Published: 14th of May 2020 – Orenda Books
Format: Ebook – 210 pages
Hello Hello! How are you?
The weekend is slowly getting closer and I think I can start counting down the days until we can start packing up and heading home to France, which is a relief but still a shame as we didn’t get to do the travelling we had planned. But as long as we get home safe it doesn’t really matter, right?
Today is my blog tour stop for my first-ever Orenda Book tour, organised by Anne Cater. I’m so glad that I decided to sign up for this tour because I’ve been looking at the Orenda books for a while and as I want to branch out of my comfort zone a bit, I’ve been keeping my eye on a few of these books, so when I got Anne’s email about them I was so happy. I was immediately interested in Ash Mountain by Helen Fitzgerald. I had never read a book set in Australia but I really wanted to give it a go and I wasn’t disappointed. Thank you to Anne for letting me take part in the tour and for sending me the book.
Fran hates Ash Mountain, 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 to her hometown 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 old 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…
Ash Mountain by Helen Fitzgerald is a thriller taking place in Ash Mountain, a small Australian town and following the lives of Francesca Collins, her elderly father who she has come back home to care for, her son and daughter, and other members of the community.
We follow a back and forth timeline, going from present-day (Day of the Fire) to back thirty years, and back again to a few days before the fire, learning about the characters’ pasts, living their present with them, always with the knowledge that the town is on fire. I always follow the news about bushfires in Australia when I can, so I was really intrigued about having an insight into them and how people live and survive in a town like this one which is prone to them.
This is a thriller, but I didn’t find it to be a type of family thriller, definitely more of a disaster thriller because everything revolves around the fire that is consuming the town and the people in it. If you are not a fan of reading about disasters in books, I would stay away from this one because it is a very central part of the plot even though a lot of other events take place.
This book is set in Ash Mountain in Australia, and I have to say that I really did get that outback feel. It seems that everyone knows everyone in this town, along with all their secrets and past events that happened to them. I think it’s definitely an arid and atmospheric setting and it really helped to set the scene for the bush fire but also for the other events that you don’t realise are significant until the end.
Francesca: (Fran) She is the main character of this book and I have to say that I loved her from the get-go. She is absolutely hilarious, witty, sarcastic, and very strong-willed. She has gone through a lot in her life, but she is still pushing through. I really love to read about resilient characters like Fran. She loves her children and her father and always tries to do the best by them. I really loved the chapters where we got her point of view.
Vonny: Vonny (Veronica) is Fran’s teenage daughter. I didn’t think that we got as much insight into this character as I would have liked, but she definitely came across as strong-willed and opinionated just like her mother.
Dante: He is Fran’s son, whom she had when she was 15 after certain events that we learn in the book. I don’t want to go into too much depth about this because it was really great to read about it and see all the threads come together. I will say that I really liked Dante too and he is just like his mother, very caring and always looking after his family.
There are multiple other characters in this book, for instance, Francesca’s father, the nun who looked after her when she was pregnant with Dante, Father Frank, The Captain (Brian Ryan Junior) and his children, and they were all really well developed and brilliant side characters, but I do think that the three I mentioned are really the stars of this book.
Bush fire: Obviously, this is the main element of the book and the element that the plot revolves around. If you don’t like reading about natural disasters, I would advise you to stay away from this book because it has a very detailed account of the fire, how it first appeared, how it progressed through the town, etc. I did really enjoy reading about it though, I don’t think that we know enough about bush fires that plague Australia all the time and even though we see a lot about it on the news, we don’t really get actual accounts of what it’s like, but this book does give them, and it was a very refreshing change.
Family: This is another book that centres strongly on family, and I absolutely loved reading about the Collins’ family. Fran’s mother died when she was a child and she grew up with her father. I got a sense that he was a really great father, very knowledgeable and that he loved his daughter very much. She gave that same love to her own children and I thought it was lovely to see how much love and care this family had for one another.
Abuse: I don’t want to touch on this too much because I don’t want to spoil you if you decide to pick this book up, but there are instances of abuse. You don’t read about it explicitly, but you get accounts of it, and some elements in the story hint towards it, mainly towards the end. There are also accounts of paedophilia, so just be aware if you decide to read it.
MY THOUGHTS AND RATING
This book was totally different to what I usually read, and it was also a lot different to what I was expecting, but I really loved it. It was quite fast-paced and I ended up finishing it in a few short sittings. This story really captivated me and I just kept turning the pages in need of knowing more.
Overall, this was a great reading experience, with a nice structure, very well-developed characters, and intricate details about the bush fire that is raging through the town during the whole book. I gave this book 4.5 stars, I really loved it and I definitely recommend.
Thank you so much to Anne and Helen for letting me take part in this tour and for sending me a copy of the book.
That’s all for now, I hope you enjoyed this review, see you soon, stay safe,
ABOUT THE AUTHOR – HELEN FITZGERALD
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.
Twitter Handle: @FitzHelen
If you would like to purchase this book, you can find it here: Amazon UK (affiliate link) – Amazon FR (affiliate link) – AbeBooks (affiliate link) – The Book Depository (affiliate link) – Audible FR (affiliate link) – Amazon US – Waterstones – Barnes and Noble – Audible UK – Kobo