Today I’m delighted to be hosting the blog tour for Ash Mountain by Helen Fitzgerald.
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…
Helen is an extraordinary author. She seems to be able to tap into both human tragedy and hope, creating stories that reflect the world brilliantly. She expertly builds layers, her characters and their history coming to life, building up through colours, light and shade – emotions and events making them as real as the world they inhibit. Ash Mountain is almost as much of a character as we watch events unfold throughout a span of thirty years. Events unfold and we know there is heat, death and destruction waiting. The fire adds an interesting element to this story in both a metaphorical sense and also bringing to us a reality faced by many to life. The world has watched the death and destruction caused by bushfires from afar. Nature and humanity consumed by this deadly force that rips through lands and communities leaving nothing but a dry, smoking landscape. Helen brings this right into our homes through the power of her novel and although heartbreaking I could not stop reading and I felt a greater understanding for the resulting suffering.
Protagonist Fran is reluctantly returning to Ash Mountain to care for her father. I immediately sensed a closeness and understanding between them and Helen beautifully portrays the complicated emotions that come with suddenly being a carer or being the one cared for. The loss of dignity later years can bring combined with the human ability to ‘get on’ with what needs to be done. Possibly the ultimate expression of love between daughter and father. Yet there is a lot of history surrounding Fran in this town and past events soon come to the surface.
I am at time of writing this review not quite finished reading (I apologise – it’s been a busy week and so I only began reading yesterday). Even so, I am almost done and I would without doubt recommend this novel. I can tell you that it is an engaging, gritty read that I have found absolutely breathtaking at times. Helen’s edgy writing is completely unique and not a word is wasted. She is quite a talent and as much as I loved last year’s Worst Case Scenario, I feel this is definitely her best work to date. There is a great deal of dark humour amongst the suffering but ultimately there is a brilliant thriller beating at the very heart of the story.
Now I’m off to finish those last few pages…
Thank you so much to the lovely Anne Cater for inviting me to take part in this blog tour and to the wonderful team at Orenda Books for sending me a review copy. Another one for my forever shelf!
Ash Mountain is available now on ebook and audiobook. The paperback edition will be published in August 2020.
About the author
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.