The Railwayman's Wife

The Railwayman's Wife

3.43 (1,747 ratings by Goodreads)
By (author) 

List price: US$16.48

Currently unavailable

We can notify you when this item is back in stock

Add to wishlist

AbeBooks may have this title (opens in new window).

Try AbeBooks


In a small town on the land's edge, in the strange space at a war's end, a widow, a poet and a doctor each try to find their own peace, and their own new story.

On the south coast of New South Wales, 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 endings, and how hard it can be sometimes to tell them apart. It's a story of life, loss and what comes after; of connection and separation, longing and acceptance. Most of all, it celebrates love in all its forms, and the beauty of discovering that loving someone can be as extraordinary as being loved yourself.
show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 320 pages
  • 157 x 234 x 24mm | 431g
  • St Leonards, Australia
  • English
  • Main
  • 1743318014
  • 9781743318010
  • 167,471

Review quote

An elegiac tale of love, loss and letting go, The Railwayman's Wife shimmers with grace. * The Newtown Review of Books * Wishful, astringent and rewarding * Sydney Morning Herald * [Hay's writing] recalls the sour-sweet best of Michael Ondaatje's fiction. Another author, Ford Madox Ford, began his The Good Soldier by claiming, "This is the saddest story." It isn't. That title rightly belongs to The Railwayman's Wife. * The Australian * Beautifully rendered and psychologically acute... [Hay] is an author in whom intellectual scope and empathetic imagination are not separate activities but two sides of the same coin. * Weekend Australian * Hay is a gifted and insightful writer; her prose is elegant and she has an eye for the telling detail. Most important, she understands people and the secret battles her characters face. * Adelaide Advertiser * Her characters are illuminated by an incandescent intelligence and rare sensibility. * Australian Book Review * In this poignant rumination on life, death, memory, dreaming and the anxious spaces in between, it's hard to find fault with a single one of Hay's words. * The Age *
show more

About Ashley Hay

Ashley Hay's first novel, The Body in the Clouds, was shortlisted for a number of prizes, including the Commonwealth Writers' Prize and the New South Wales and West Australian Premier's Awards. A former literary editor of The Bulletin, she contributes to a number of publications including Five Dials, The Monthly, Australian Geographic and The Australian.
show more

Rating details

1,747 ratings
3.43 out of 5 stars
5 14% (241)
4 35% (611)
3 35% (608)
2 13% (233)
1 3% (54)

Our customer reviews

The Railwayman's Wife is the second novel by Australian author, Ashley Hay. It is set in Thirroul, on the south coast of New South Wales, in 1948. Living in post-war New South Wales with her husband, Mackenzie and her ten-year-old daughter, Isabel, Anikka Lachlan counts herself fortunate to have survived the war without the losses suffered by so many. But then Mac, a railwayman, is killed in a train accident, and Ani's life suddenly becomes unrecognisable. She is offered a job in the Railway Institute Library, where she encounters many of the village's residents including the frequently abrasive war veteran, Dr Frank Draper, the often dismissive Iris McKinnon and her rather shy brother, Roy, a published war poet. Hay's narrative switches between events that immediately precede Mac's death and the year that follows, and flashbacks to significant fragments of Ani and Mac's history. Ani discovers a Mac she barely recognises from chance bits of conversation and second-hand anecdotes, ("There's an anxious space between not knowing if you've forgotten something, or if you never knew.") but also finds that life goes on. Hay's second novel, like her first, is filled with beautiful prose, so that locals of the area will be doubly delighted with the depiction of the paradise they call their own. "And then there's the air, the nor'-easters that play along the shoreline; the westerlies that dump fractious moods over the edge of the escarpment; the smoky draughts in late spring and summer that telegraph bushfires and then spur them on. There are soft sea breezes that tease and tickle with lightest scent of salty water. There are southerly busters, powerful fronts that push up the coast to break open the heat of the day-they smell clean and crisp, and Ani pushes her nose hungrily into hot afternoons in search of their coming" and "Her blond hair so bright, it looked lit from within" and "..the afternoon's light hits that point before sunset where it softens and swells sometimes into a few minutes of rounder, warmer illumination. Through the window, the greens of the trees thicken slightly; the shadows lengthen, and the sky takes on a fuller shade of blue. The mountain, diminished at midday, surges again to its full height; the clouds flare a brighter white" are but a few examples. Hay expertly renders the feel of the late forties in a small Australian coastal village; her characters have depth and appeal; her dialogue is credible and the plot contains hope and heartache in equal measure. An absolute pleasure to more
by Marianne Vincent
Book ratings by Goodreads
Goodreads is the world's largest site for readers with over 50 million reviews. We're featuring millions of their reader ratings on our book pages to help you find your new favourite book. Close X