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The Railwayman's Wife by Ashley Hay

The Railwayman's Wife

Literary Fiction   Family Drama   Historical Fiction   Reading Groups   eBook Favourites   
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Savour every second of this stunning novel, take your time, don't rush, don't miss a single solitary word. The setting, Thirroul in Australia at the end of the Second World War, is described with such heartrending and vibrant beauty, you can quite literally feel the caress of the breeze, the grit of the sand, the thunder of the train on the track. The main characters are all lost and in search of something just beyond reach or possibly comprehension, the compassion the author feels for them is quite evident. Yes, this is a book about loss and love, yet at it’s heart feels as though it’s a celebration of life, in all it’s vital wonderful glory. This is a book to fall in love with, once finished to read again or dip in to, so you can re-capture the essence of the beautiful lyrical verse. ~ Liz Robinson

The Good Book Guide logo The Good Book Guide Review. Deeply lyrical and beautifully written, Hay’s magical tale of three lost souls seeking a way to find new ways to live in the wake of tragedy is spellbinding fiction of the highest calibre. In Australia of 1948, the newly widowed Anikka Lachlan is cast adrift from the comfortable certainties of her old life after her husband’s sudden death, whilst poet Roy McKinnon – like his brasher friend Dr Frank Draper – is desperately seeking to find any meaning after years decimated by the vicissitudes of war. A reflective, melancholy book that offers a psychologically penetrating portrait of the legacy of a good marriage, it lingers long in the memory.
~ Amanda Hodges

Reader Reviews

In addition to our Lovereading expert opinion some of our Reader Review Panel were also lucky enough to read and review this title.

  • Tracey Poulter - 'A beautifully written book showing how three characters come to terms with loss and how it changes them forever. It is a gentle and haunting, almost poetic, exploration of emotions and relationships.' Read full review >
  • Jillian McFrederick - 'This is a novel that shows how words can bring comfort either in the escape they offer or through the wisdom they impart.' Read full review >
  • Josie Barton - 'The Railwayman’s Wife is an emotional and at times quite melancholy story which explores the effects of grief and the consequences of living life in the aftermath of devastating loss.' Read full review >
  • Sarah Hamid - 'This is a beautifully written novel of memories and relationships, set against the backdrop of the natural beauty of the Australian coast, and the legacy of war.' Read full review >
  • Jane Pepler - 'On the south coast of New South Wales, three people chase their dreams through the books in the railway's library...The book is full of wonderfully descriptive prose. I found it very calming to read and the writing is gentle and serene.' Read full review >
  • Nikki Whitmore - 'A book for people who love books and believe in the healing ability of poetry and stories.' Read full review >
  • Margaret Madden - 'The story of a widow coming to terms with her loss with the help of a new job in a railway library.  Here she finds comfort and friendship among the shelves.  A lyrical novel, warm and endearing.' Read full review >
  • Catherine Hogwood - 'A story of loss and recovery.' Read full review >
  • Jane Birchall - 'A beautifully written book - slow paces, thoughtful and moving without being sentimental.' Read full review >
  • Vanessa Wild -  'A beautifully written book and a lyrical and evocative read - a story which had me thinking for a while after I'd finished it.' Read full review >
  • Linda Hill - 'Accomplished and enthralling writing that transports the reader into the minds of the characters.' Read full review >
  • Celia Cohen - 'Well written but not riveting.' Read full review >
  • Jane Carter - 'It’s wonderfully involving, it’s utterly readable, and I’d say that, if you’re looking for a summer read with substance, this could well be the book for you.' Read full review >
  • Emma Barton - 'This is a slow paced story about loss and the after effects of the Second World War on a small Australian community.' Read full review >
  • Jan Kirkcaldy - 'It’s a story of life and friendship where you can never be sure what will happen next except that it will take you by surprise...A lovely book.' Read full review >


The Railwayman's Wife by Ashley Hay

In a small town on the land's edge, in the strange space at a war's end, a widow, a poet and a doctor each try to find their own peace, and their own new story. On the south coast of New South Wales, in 1948, people chase their dreams through the books in the railway's library. Anikka Lachlan searches for solace after her life is destroyed by a single random act. Roy McKinnon, who found poetry in the mess of war, has lost his words and his hope. Frank Draper is trapped by the guilt of those his treatment and care failed on their first day of freedom. All three struggle with the same question: how now to be alive. Written in clear, shining prose and with an eloquent understanding of the human heart, The Railwayman's Wife explores the power of beginnings and endings, and how hard it can be sometimes to tell them apart. It's a story of life, loss and what comes after; of connection and separation, longing and acceptance. Most of all, it celebrates love in all its forms, and the beauty of discovering that loving someone can be as extraordinary as being loved yourself.


'In this poignant rumination on life, death, memory, dreaming and the anxious spaces in between, it's hard to find fault with a single one of Hay's words.' -- The Age

'Wishful, astringent and rewarding' -- Sydney Morning Herald

'Beautifully rendered and psychologically acute.' -- Weekend Australian

'[Hay's writing] recalls the sour-sweet best of Michael Ondaatje's fiction. Another author, Ford Madox Ford, began his The Good Soldier by claiming, This is the saddest story. It isn't. That title rightly belongs to The Railwayman's Wife.' -- The Australian

'Hay is a gifted and insightful writer; her prose is elegant and she has an eye for the telling detail. Most important, she understands people and the secret battles her characters face.' -- Adelaide Advertiser

'An elegiac tale of love, loss and letting go, The Railwayman's Wife shimmers with grace.' -- The Newtown Review of Books

'Her characters are illuminated by an incandescent intelligence and rare sensibility.' -- Australian Book Review

About the Author

Ashley Hay

Ashley Hay's first novel, The Body in the Clouds, was shortlisted for a number of prizes, including the Commonwealth Writers' Prize and the New South Wales and West Australian Premier's Awards. A former literary editor of The Bulletin, she contributes to a number of publications including Five Dials, The Monthly, Australian Geographic and The Australian.

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Book Info

Publication date

7th August 2014


Ashley Hay

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Allen & Unwin


320 pages


Literary Fiction
Family Drama
Historical Fiction
Reading Groups
eBook Favourites

Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)



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