Blow on a Dead Man’s Embers by Mari Strachan - review by Rachel Hore

Rachel Hore

Davey Davies’s Locker

Blow on a Dead Man’s Embers


Canongate 320pp £12.99 order from our bookshop

‘The war has changed everything,’ says Rhiannon Davies, known as Non, the young wife through whose eyes Blow on a Dead Man’s Embers is told. There are plenty of novels about the horrors of the trenches, but few that address the devastating aftershocks of the First World War, especially on women and family life. This novel examines the experiences of an extended family in a small, rural Welsh community in 1921. Davey Davies, a maker of coffins and cabinets, has returned from the battlefields mentally scarred, suffering from hallucinations and nursing some secret that Non realises he needs to remember ‘before he can make the decision to forget it’. With discernment and tenderness, Mari Strachan, whose first novel was the acclaimed The Earth Hums in B Flat, traces the Davies family’s slow journey towards recovery over the course of a long, hot summer.

Non, an ex-teacher, is Davey’s second wife. Because of a heart condition diagnosed by her late father, a famed herbalist, she’s been unable to bear children, but has made a loving family all the same: with her stepchildren – Wil, at fifteen ready to fly the nest, and

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