The Railwayman's Wife by Ashley Hay

In Thirroul 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 ending, and how hard it can be sometimes to tell them apart.

Thanks to our new ‘An Audience With’ program, Wollongong City Libraries’ book clubs are becoming very experienced in conversing with authors. Couple that with a friendly, open and chatty guest in the form of Ashley Hay, what you have is a wonderfully informative and extremely enjoyable evening!

Most of our clubs have either read or are reading Ashley’s The Railwayman’s Wife, which incidentally is getting the thumbs up all around, so last Tuesday was a great opportunity to learn more about the novel from its creator.

Our questions spanned everything from Hay’s choice of setting (Thirroul, where she grew up), the origins of her characters, and the process of researching a post-war novel, to writing poetry and discovering an author’s voice.

Sharing many personal antidotes and imparting what the novel means to her definitely worked magic on our audience and we all felt just that little bit closer to Anikka, Mac, Frank and Roy. With gentle coaxing Ashley read aloud Roy’s poem and explained the story behind its writing by poet Stephen Edgar. This was such a special treat … Edgar’s poem, which he wrote especially for this novel, came alive under her gentle, quiet voice. The same voice that resounds so clearly in The Railwayman’s Wife.

As all book clubs do, we appreicate honest and thoughful responses to our questions and cannot thank Ashley enough for her time and consideration.

We look forward to Ashley’s next novel and highly recommend her work and attending any of her talks and presentations.

In connecting with her ‘audience’ we give 10 stars!