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The Ash Burner (Kári Gíslason, UQP)

Kári Gíslason’s first book, The Promise of Iceland, was a memoir about his search for his absent Icelandic father and a heartfelt exploration of the importance of home, place and family to our sense of self. It is a fitting precursor to his first novel, The Ash Burner. Young Ted, our narrator, grows up alone with his father after the tragic drowning of his mother many years earlier in England. Seeking a kind of communion with the sea, Ted almost drowns himself at the nearby beach. This semi-deliberate accident changes the course of his life and his relationship with his father. Recovering in hospital, Ted is adopted by Anthony, a troubled teenaged artist, and Anthony’s girlfriend Claire. The couple is intense and Ted is soon, not unwillingly, dragged into their world and their relationship. Not without its flaws, the novel is slow to start, and some parts of the narrative fail to fit together cohesively in a pleasing way. But The Ash Burner is an insightful coming-of-age novel featuring a protagonist who is infinitely appealing. It grounds itself firmly in the art world and will appeal to fans of Craig Silvey’s Jasper Jones, Emily Bitto’s The Strays and Krissy Kneen’s Steeplechase

Angie Andrewes is a bookseller and reviewer


Category: Reviews