Read Blow on a Dead Man's Embers by Mari Strachan Online


A gripping and moving portrait of a society emerging from the shadow of war, and of an unforgettable woman out of kilter with her time In the aftermath of the Great War, Non Davies wakes one morning to find her husband crouching under the kitchen table in a cold sweat and with fear in his eyes, shouldering an imaginary rifle. During the intense heat of that summer she forcA gripping and moving portrait of a society emerging from the shadow of war, and of an unforgettable woman out of kilter with her time In the aftermath of the Great War, Non Davies wakes one morning to find her husband crouching under the kitchen table in a cold sweat and with fear in his eyes, shouldering an imaginary rifle. During the intense heat of that summer she forces herself to sit and watch him, knowing she has to discover what has changed her Davey so completely. A mysterious letter addressed to Davey gives her the clue she needs and takes her to London in search of an answer. When she returns home Non realizes that the dark secrets of his behavior are working their way ever closer to the surface—secrets that will shatter the fragile happiness of their community if they ever become known. This wonderful piece of storytelling is rich in atmosphere and full of characters that leap from the page....

Title : Blow on a Dead Man's Embers
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781847675316
Format Type : paperback ARC
Number of Pages : 312 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Blow on a Dead Man's Embers Reviews

  • Nikki
    2019-02-20 03:05

    Dead Man’s Embers is a mostly quiet story set in a small Welsh village just after the Great War, where everyone knows everyone, and you still might be more likely to go to someone who knows their herbs than to a doctor. It deals with the aftermath of war, in one thread, and of the development of understanding of not obviously physical illnesses and disabilities (featuring PTSD, dementia and what is presumably autism). It also deals with the tribulations of dealing with a family where you’re not always welcome, and of disillusionment with a loved figure from the past. There’s a touch of magic realism — can Rhiannon, Non, actually see people’s illnesses? Can the medium who speaks to her actually see something?My answer would be yes, sort of, at least as far as Non goes. Her father calls her gift “diagnosis”, and I do believe that some people have that instinctive ability. I’ve only really had the experience once, looking at a man I admired and realising there was something wrong with his heart (and I couldn’t really say why: something about his face, the colour of his skin, the way he stood). He was dead within days, exactly as I had thought — but the doctor who saw him didn’t see what I saw, and sent him home. Some things do leave their marks, just like that, and that aspect of the story rang pretty true to me, no magic required.The medium, well, I was less convinced, but strange things do happen and we don’t always know what to make of them, and that was more or less how it was handled here.The love between Non and her family, the little points of conflict, all worked really well to support the mystery of what exactly happened to her husband Davey. It does get a little dramatic towards the end, with his realisations and confessions, but that works because of the solid support of Non’s fears and caring for him, and because his earlier traumatised state is well described. And there’s so many well-realised people — gossipy Maggie, steady Lizzie and Wil, capable and yet embittered Angela… People desperate for any kind of comfort, willing to believe anything, in the wake of a war which took so many away and changed Britain so much.And it is so quietly, but so intrinsically, so very Welsh. Taken for granted is the fact that Welsh soldiers had to write home in English, which their families may not even have spoken. That notices of death came in English, and sometimes you’d have to go fetch an English speaker to read the news to you in Welsh. That Welsh speakers would’ve been forced to speak English, and punished if they did not. The “Welsh Not” is just a reality, not the horrible thing it seems to me.Dead Man’s Embers is not my usual sort of book, but it cast a spell over me. I read it in an afternoon, unwilling to put it down.Originally posted here.

  • Teresa
    2019-01-27 05:12

    I thoroughly enjoyed Mari Strachan’s first novel, The Earth Hums in B Flat, set in rural Wales in the 1950s with its unforgettable 12 and a bit narrator, Gwenni. Blow on a Dead Man’s Embers is set in an earlier era, it is 1921 and Non (Rhiannon) knows she should be relieved to have her husband Davey safely returned from the Great War where so many perished. Davey might be physically present but Non worries about his emotional and mental state and she is determined to “fix” him and make him whole again even if it means subterfuge on her part. This is such a beautifully written story peopled with vibrant, interesting characters. I felt like I really got to know Non and her step-children including the quiet, reticent Osian and the wilful, teenage Meg. I felt immersed in the intensity of the interminable heatwave assailing the small Welsh village and its inhabitants and the fact I was also brought up in a tiny, remote village made the characters resonate with me even more. Life is hard, the laundry is never-ending but there is little for it but to just get by the best one can. However it’s not all doom and gloom and comic interludes are provided by Maggie Ellis, the village gossip (my village still has one like her!) and Non’s dour mother-in-law, Catherine Davies.As well as the stifling ambiance of village life we have the global issues of love and loss, post-traumatic stress disorder, dementia, autism, the struggle for Irish independence, medical advances, women’s rights, the growth of the Labour party. Change is coming whether the villagers like it or not. Mari Strachan has a knack of engaging the reader almost immediately, drawing you into this other world, immersing you in another era - highly recommended particularly if you enjoy excellent storytelling in a rural setting. I’m really looking forward to seeing what Mari comes up with next.

  • Kirsty
    2019-02-16 01:12

    Blow on a Dead Man’s Embers follows Strachan’s wonderful début novel The Earth Hums in B Flat. The novel takes place two years after the end of the First World War in a relatively small town in the Welsh countryside.The protagonist of the novel is twenty nine-year-old Rhiannon Davies, known to all as Non. She is the wife of Davey, a man who fought in the war and returned to Non in an almost unrecognisable state: ‘The War has taken her husband as surely as if it had killed him, and returned a stranger to her in his place’.Non wakes one morning to find Davey crouched beneath the kitchen table, ‘shouldering an imaginary rifle’ and reliving the terrors which he was catapulted into during his time in the trenches. She desperately tries to keep this occurrence from their children – teenagers Wil and Meg from Davey’s first marriage, and seven-year-old Osian, a ‘shadow child’, taken in by the family when his young mother died. Osian shows little emotion and does not communicate with those around him, a fact which Non and Davey try greatly to ignore. Wil is kindly and compassionate, always trying to make those around him as happy as possible, but Meg seems his antithesis in many ways. She is a selfish girl, seen by others as ‘too young, and too cross and too silly’.The novel has an impressive scope, seemingly aiming to highlight the effects of war upon a multitude of different people. Since the war began, the lives of the Davies family have altered greatly. Davey, once softly spoken and kind is snappy and headstrong on his return, and Non holds many secrets. Her situation is sad at times: ‘… she has no idea how to begin to fight back, how to begin to find the Davey who loved her’, but she is not always a likeable character. She is judgemental of everyone around her and is rather cruel and selfish at times.A third person present tense perspective has been used throughout Dead Man’s Embers. Although this technique gives Strachan the ability to follow several characters and highlight their thoughts and feelings, Non is the sole focus of the narrative. Other characters are included only when they interact with her, making them flat and unrealistic in consequence. Every last one of the characters seems lacking, not fully developed enough to be believed. A good example of this can be found when one takes Davey’s mother, Catherine Davies, into account. She is referred to by her full name without fail throughout, and is consequently seen as a remote character. This third person perspective is distancing and the reader is unable to know any of the characters because of it.Strachan evokes a somewhat chilling atmosphere from the outset. She perfectly captures the fear which has so encompassed Davey and the way in which his new persona has affected him and his family. Although the novel starts off in an intriguing manner, the rest of the story falls flat in comparison. Throughout, Strachan does bring in many questions and observations appropriate to the period, including Ireland’s fight for independence, the role of women following the war, and politics. Rather than being expanded upon, however, these elements are merely touched upon and lack any real significance when placed into the story.Elements of the novel seemed a little far-fetched and do not really work with the story, and the novel’s twists are both unexpected and unrealistic. Some of the included scenes are rather tedious, particularly with regard to the filling in of the census form. The dialogue is not as good as it could be. Some of the exchanges seem a little too modern in their structure and are not reminiscent of the period in which the novel is set. Grammatical mistakes can be found in several places throughout the novel which detracts from the writing style.Sadly, Blow on a Dead Man’s Embers does not come alive as The Earth Hums in B Flat does. The writing is not as spellbinding and the story is not as well executed. The prose does not sparkle and seems rather mundane in many instances.

  • Barb
    2019-01-30 01:07

    I found this novel by Mari Strachan a pleasant book to read. The story is set in Wales, 1921, just after World War I. Rhiannon Davies is struggling with the changes that the war has had on her easy going husband Davey. Several mornings in a row she wakes to find him in a trance under the kitchen table where he is re-enacting his experiences in the trenches.Rhiannon, 'Non' for short, decides she must do something to help her husband, she wants to understand why he is suddenly behaving this way. She reads a letter addressed to Davey from a woman Non doesn't know and eventually decides to go to London to see if she can learn anything more about what's upsetting him.The story is set up with a bit of a mystery, the reader and Non are curious to know more about Davey's relationship with the woman who sent the letter. But when Non goes to London she ends up learning more about herself than she does about Davey. Which, I thought was an excellent way to set up another thread of the story where Non would process what she learned about herself and her childhood but the author doesn't really flesh that story out much at all.I thought this was a quick and easy read, the mystery kept me turning the pages and I liked learning the many secrets Non discovered. I enjoyed reading about the period and the setting, which I wasn't familiar with. The author does a nice job of illustrating the differences between the modernity of the city and the traditional ways of the country during this period of transition. There was also a thread of spiritualism woven in which I enjoyed and the author gives her story nice details about the physical setting, including the chores of daily life, the weather and the objects that are important to her characters.While the author sets up a compelling story and interesting relationships between the characters she didn't delve very deeply into them, emotions and the workings behind relationships were somewhat cursory and left me wanting to know more. I liked the main character and the relationships she has with her family, especially her nephew. The relationship between Non and her sister could have be developed so much more as could the relationship between Non and her husband, Davey.While I really enjoyed reading this book I was left feeling less than satisfied by the denouement of the story. Unfortunately, I thought, the resolution of Davey's internal struggle unfolds a little too rapidly and without a logical catalyst. There were also a few too many threads that felt unresolved and the author let a bomb go off with a final secret at the very end of the story and said nothing about it.Overall an interesting story with a few quirky issues that probably most readers won't be bothered by. I would try this author again in the future.

  • Lindsay
    2019-02-16 02:15

    Rhiannon Davies, known as Non, the main character in this novel, is a wonderful creation. A fascinating character I thought, a strong character, she seems almost ahead of her time. She copes with the two children of her husband’s first marriage, lovely Wil and more difficult Meg, plus another child, the mysterious Osian, who her husband brought into their home and asked Non to accept with no questions asked. On top of this her kind father in law is unwell, and most difficult of all, her husband Davey, recently returned from fighting in World War I, seems to be suffering from what we would now call post-traumatic stress disorder; she finds him each morning in some sort of terrible waking dream, reenacting some wartime shooting incident and hiding under the kitchen table. He does not speak of this to her. Non is desperate to have the man back that she loved before, and feels that she must find out what exactly happened to change him. A letter from someone Davey claims to have fallen in love with provides a clue that Non follows. As well as these concerns she struggles with her own particular health issues and curious gift that have impacted on her life thus far, and also juggles the relationships with her sister Branwen, and her nephew Gwydion, and her difficult mother in law Catherine. Further, she has cause to question what she knew about her late father, as she learns more about him. The author effectively adds to the heaviness that weighs on Non by incorporating the details of the weather at that time, hot and stifling, a heat that Non cannot escape until the end of the novel, when it finally cools down, in tune with the story. It is an interesting time period; just post World War I, with several in the locality mourning the sad loss of their men. We get a real sense of domestic life then, the heat of the range when cooking, the novelty of having a kettle, the procedures when doing the washing, all add to the authentic period setting of the novel. Additionally we learn a little about alternative medical practices, and the novel brings in some of what is happening around them in the world at the time, such as the rights of women, and the events in Ireland.I think this is a beautifully written novel, thought provoking, intelligent and enjoyable to read. The characters are so well drawn and believable, and I felt like I got to know them. I would recommend it and I would read more by this author.

  • DubaiReader
    2019-01-23 07:10

    Full of feeling.I loved The Earth Hums in B Flat and could see the resemblance in this book, with the emotional descriptions of Davey's fearful episodes after his return from WWI. Mari Strachan seems to be particularly good at this type of writing.Again set in Wales, the story centres around Non (Rhiannon) Davies and her husband Davey. He has two children from a previous marriage and a younger son, Osian, who he mysteriously turns up with, as a baby, one day. Osian shows signs of autism, though at that time such disabilities would not have been recognised. Soon after their marriage, Davey goes off to war and although he is one of the few that came back apparently uninjured, his mental turmoil is just as damaging.Non is an endearing character who is always ready to help her friends and neighbours, yet she seems unable to help her husband. Then a letter turns up in Davey's pocket and Non ventures to London in the hope of some answers.This was every bit as good as Ms Strachan's first book, full of feeling and emotion - hopefully there will be many more to come.

  • Louise
    2019-01-21 03:22

    I really like the way this lady writes.....she seems to make small Welsh villages seem almost magical, but captures perfectly how everyone knows everything about you, sometimes before you know it yourself.I guessed at Davey' s secret long before the reveal,I think there were so many clues not to....but didn't guess how non' s whole childhood would unravel before her as a pack of lies.....Interesting stuff.

  • Bettie☯
    2019-02-03 01:07

    Dedication:IAdam, Lilo, Cai, a Rachelhefo cariad mawr.Opening: Something is weighing on her breast, squeezing her heart.3* The Earth Hums in B Flat 3* Dead Man's Embers

  • Gail
    2019-01-24 08:28

    Well written, but didn't go anywhere.

  • Ellie
    2019-01-25 00:14

    Non is a housewife in Wales, 1921, where thousands of lives have been forever scarred by the war. Her husband, Davey, returns a different man and she is determined to discover what happened to him in the war to change him so. She is raising a child that is not hers and does not speak and begins to wonder if Osian is a product of her husband's secret life.I was immediately drawn into the world of the Davies and didn't feel I had to make the effort to get to know the characters, they were there in full colour from the start. My heart was already breaking for Osian on page 19, yet it never becomes a depressing read. It shows her skill that Mari can make a story about post traumatic stress give you the warm and fuzzies. Her writing is warm and tender, full of charm and undoubtedly Welsh. Despite the difference in subject matter and narrative, you can hear the same voice behind this as The Earth Hums in B Flat.The story is full of details of life after World War I, a period of much change, where women, once in charge of things and learning how to do a man's job, must return to household duties, if they were lucky enough that their husbands came home. Many conversations are made against the backdrop of painstaking housework yet there is the hope of modern appliances hinted at here and there. Mentions of the political situations in Wales and Ireland are no more than you would expect a family to discuss over the kitchen table and gives just the right amount of credence to this slice of life in the not so glamourous twenties.We can now give a name to the conditions suffered by Davey, his father and Osian, but in the twenties families had to cope knowing only that there was something not right with their loved ones. I think Non's visit to the Doctor signalled the start of a different understanding in the medical world despite the nurse's blindness to the mental state of her patients.I must admit I wasn't sure about the title at first but now I see it works perfectly for a metaphor of Non bringing her husband back to her. The title is taken from a poem by Robert Graves, To Bring the Dead to Life.A book to read in one sitting!

  • Anna
    2019-01-20 05:16

    This is a book with a range of loveable characters and a beautifully dense atmosphere. I found it a satisfying read.Like some other reviewers, I cannot claim that the plot was as intricate as I would have expected, yet that almost seemed to suit the overall character of the book (and the main character). It approached a sensitive and potentially violent subject (war and the scars it leaves on and in people and society as a whole) with the tentative steps of a quiet young woman that is not quite sure how much she really would like to know about all that happened. Thus the book merely hints at the harshness of WWI and the conflicts in Non's life were perhaps solved a little to easily (in fact, while the book was about Non slowly discovering that she should take her life into her own hands, it appeared that her husband suddenly came around all on his own; her actions were not directly related to that - I thought that weakened the story).

  • Clare
    2019-02-10 00:28

    Far better than I expected it to be. Non (Rhiannon) was a very strong character, both easy to relate to and to admire. The other characters were each absorbing in their own ways as well so that it was easy to like the characters, except Catherine Davies who I really disliked. The story was excellent and absorbing. Some of the secrets that were revealed were easily guessed but others were a complete surprise and one revelation at the end left me thinking that there might have been more to the story. Seeing things from Non's point of view means that it is impossible to know whether Davey was telling the complete truth at that point, but as she says "there was truth in the story" and if that is enough for her I guess it is enough for me as well. A very enjoyable novel and one that I would definitely recommend to others.

  • Anne
    2019-02-15 01:23

    This is a book to immerse yourself in, and I did it a grave disservice by reading it 50 pages a night. That said though, I loved it - very different in tone and content from The Earth Hums... but the characters and setting leap off the page in just the same way. Much darker though, dealing with post-traumatic stress and buried secrets. The overall "feel" is that nothing much happens, but that isn't true - it's just an impression created by the character driven narrative and the oppressive heat of the summer over which its set. Fascinating detail about the changes on their way - medicine, politics, technology - in the wake of the Great War, and a superb sense of time and place. A wonderful absorbing read - highly recommended.

  • Jo Barton
    2019-02-10 03:26

    When Non Davies's husband returns from the Great War, she is relived to have him home in one piece, and yet Davy bears unseen scars of war, and still lives with the horror of the trenches. Non must use all her skills and do what must be done in order to keep her family together.This quietly understated book is a delight to read, the story gripped me from its opening chapter, and kept me enthralled until its emotional conclusion. There is an underlying strength which comes from fine writing, great attention to detail, and the author’s natural ability to tell a good story.Read it if you can.

  • Robert Palmer
    2019-02-18 08:22

    The story takes place after World War One in a small village in Wales. For me the story moved very slowing for the first third of the book,when it started to grab my interest when Non ( short for Rhiannon ) takes a trip to London and meets the woman that her husband has been writing to,she also has a meeting with a doctor.After returning to Wales many of the mysteries in her & her husbands life start to be explained .The only problem I have with the story is that it ended without explaining so many other mysteries of other people in the village.

  • Grace
    2019-02-01 03:11

    Strachan's latest novel does not live up to her delightful and compelling first novel, The Earth Hums in B-Flat. While she creates an outstandingly strong female character in Non, the plot does not live up to her strength. So no matter how much I admire Non, I feel there is something left unanswered in the plot. It's not as if I need to have every detail answered, but the end of the novel is not satisfying. While I did not find the plot very engaging, I did admire the setting and Strachan's ability to create memorable characters.

  • Alex
    2019-01-31 06:19

    Von Mari Strachans erstem Roman war ich sehr begeistert, so wollte ich auch dieses Buch lesen. Aber es hat mich diesmal gar nicht gepackt. Die Sprache ist nach wie vor sehr schön, aber die Geschichte vermag mich nicht zu fesseln, ich bleibe nur schwer dran.Die Idee, eine Geschichte über die Folgen des 1. Weltkrieges für die SOldaten zu schreiben, ist grundsätzlich gut. Aber die Geschichte bleibt oberflächlich, geht zu wenig in die Tiefe und die Probleme werden "einfach so" viel zu schnell plötzlich gelöst. Schade, da wäre mehr drin gewesen!

  • Helen Tate
    2019-02-05 07:09

    This started slowly, but about halfway through I really got into it and raced through. However I was left with a feeling I'd missed something when I finished it.....there were loose ends and I wanted to know more. Still, It's a good read and I enjoyed it.

  • Suvi
    2019-02-16 00:28

    Beautifully and movingly written book about the consequences of WWI for the Davies family in Wales. Non, the main character is very likable, strong woman, even though she doesn't quite know it herself. Her story captivates.

  • Lynne - The Book Squirrel
    2019-02-10 02:21

    A nice read about a welsh family trying to adapt to life after WW1 and the return of their scared men from the ravages of the trenches.Very well written and a joy to read.Wales

  • Deborah Dicks
    2019-02-18 08:12

    Didn't finish - bored me silly. I knew there was something wrong when I was not looking forward to reading and was finding something else to do to avoid picking up the book.

  • Marjorie Kubacki
    2019-02-02 23:58

    While I really enjoyed the author's writing style and her ability to capture the mood of post WW1 Wales, the plot did not live up to the set-up.

  • Erika
    2019-02-14 05:28

    Great story and I loved the characters. Very atmospheric and fascinating, will be reading more of hers.

  • Tara
    2019-02-05 04:15

    Set in Wales after WWI, about a young wife and her traumatised husband back from the trenches. Well-written and quite sweet, but somewhat lacking in direction.

  • Rhi
    2019-02-07 05:59

    I promise there will be a review for this soon.I am promising to myself more than anyone.

  • Ness Kingsley
    2019-01-24 00:16

    About the aftermath of the World War 1.