Book Club: Ache

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Author: Eliza Henry-Jones
ISBN: 9781460750384
RRP: $29.99

In 2015 we reviewed In The Quiet which was the beautifully written debut of the talented Eliza Henry-Jones, she went straight onto my watch list and I jumped at the chance to review her second novel Ache.


Henry-Jones has a background in grief, loss and trauma counselling which, I think, adds weight and depth to the situations she tackles in he writing. Ache is a story of rebuilding after a devastating bushfire but it’s about more than rebuilding homes and the town; it’s about rebuilding people, families and relationships as well.

Annie was in her childhood mountaintop home with her grandmother and her young daughter when a devastating bushfire ripped through leaving Annie’s world in tatters. There were many homes and lives lost in the fire, no-one in the area was left untouched. Annie was with her grandmother and young daughter when the fires hit and the only way out was on the back of her beloved horse with her daughter, leaving her grandmother behind and ending up the face of the fires in the media.

The house she grew up in with her mother and grandmother isn’t damaged by the fire, but the wind that accompanied it tips a tree that takes out half of the house, and her grandmother. The wind and the fires are all wrapped up together in the events that destroyed the lives of so many.

Directly after the fires Annie returned to her city home briefly before helping her uncle search the mountain for injured animals, leaving her daughter in the city with her husband while she returns to the mountain.

A year later Annie is at home with Tom and Pip but nothing is as it was. Tom and Annie are drifting apart, Annie is sleepwalking and Pip has not recovered from the trauma of the fires. Annie heads back to the mountain, taking Pip with her. The two are still suffering but Annie needs to be with her mum, and she hopes that being back there will help them heal.

I really enjoyed Ache, it didn’t put me quite as far under it’s spell as I expected but I think that has more to do with my life at the moment than the story. I had hoped for a long weekend that was very big on reading time but it didn’t quite turn out that way.

There are so many beautiful facets to this story that I’m not sure where to begin. Grief is a very personal thing, we all deal with it in our own way and there is no right or wrong way to get through it. Henry-Jones shows us grief in different forms through these characters and how they cope and move forward.

Each of these characters had an aching heart and grieving process to move through, different aches and different griefs that lead to working through much older grievances and working through issues full circle. There wasn’t a character I didn’t like, that I didn’t feel for.

Annie is working through a lot of guilt mixed in with her grief and her time back on the mountain after the fire offers a new perspective and allows her to look at her whole life through different eyes. There were times that I was left questioning how much I liked Annie. She’s struggling with the distance forming between her and her husband and we learn a lot about their relationship throughout the years. The arrival of her childhood best friend and first love left me always wondering where that would go and what it would mean for her vows, it would certainly be a tricky situation; especially with emotions still running high after the fire.

Pip was the character who completely entranced me. She’s a six year old girl suffering anxiety caused by the fire. She is withdrawn, clingy and needs both a security scarf and to hide behind a new name. Life back on the mountain could be extremely damaging in this situation; forcing her to see the scars on the land every single day and be reminded of all that was lost. OR she could feel safe enough to start slowly emerging from her shell.

Lyrebirds played a significant part in the storyline of Ache and it occurs to me that I am not very familiar with the bird but it must be quite a significant species because they do feature quite prominently in fiction. Maybe that’s not quite the way to put it but as a species they seem to get more page time than I have noticed any other birds get. Lyrebirds are mimics, they can replicate any sound they hear but they are also quite reclusive and not often seen. Annie and her Uncle Len have been following a group of them on the mountain for years and there is much searching for them in the wake of the fires, hoping that they will return.

The fire destroyed so much and the community has to rebuild, but it’s not just the property loss or the loss of life. Now they are dealing with insurance, or lack of, and the media outlets that want to exploit the situation. So much loss, so much emotion, so much community spirit and still so much anger.

Ache is a story of rejuvenation, of finding what was lost, of moving through grief and letting go of the past and it’s a story of redemption. It was a poignant story that tugged at my heart strings but it also carried a vein of humour and wit that made me giggle. Perhaps that was just because I too have children that sit and listen to all the inappropriate language and store it for later use.

It is often said that the sophomore novel is scarier to release than the debut because this time round you have something to be compared to, well I don’t think Eliza Henry-Jones has anything to be afraid of. Ache is touching, engaging and entertaining; Henry-Jones has honed her craft and I look forward to seeing what she comes up with next.

Thanks to Harper Collins 10 of our Beauty and Lace Club members are going to be reading Ache so please be aware there may be spoilers in the comments below.

Ache is book #26 for the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge 2017.

You can find Eliza on Facebook, Twitter and her Website.

Ache is available now through Harper Collins, Booktopia, Angus & Robertson Bookworld and where all good books are sold.

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10 thoughts on “Book Club: Ache

  1. The story centres around Annie, who is married to Tom, and has a six-year-old daughter named Pip.
    A year ago, a bushfire ripped through the mountains where Annie grew up.
    Her mother’s home was partially destroyed, and her beloved grandmother Gladys was killed. The entire community was affected.
    Annie and Pip were there when the tragic events of that day panned out, but they managed to escape unscathed. However, a year on, and they are still both traumatised by the things they witnessed on that fateful day.
    When Annie receives a call from her Uncle Len letting her know that her mother isn’t coping well, Annie makes the decision to return back to the mountains, quitting her job at a vet clinic in the city, and taking Pip with her. She is hoping that the move back to the mountains will allow them both to begin to heal.
    As the story continues, we are given a real insight into what the community experienced on the day of the bushfire; the lives, the homes, and the animals that were lost.
    The effects the bushfire has had on all of the residents and wildlife in the area is described exceptionally well.
    The trauma of the bushfire presents itself in many forms. Annie experiences flashbacks, sleepwalking and nightmares. Pip insists on being called “Phillip”, and she wets the bed and plays up. And Annie’s artist mother, Susan, isn’t able to paint anymore, and instead spends her days baking dozens upon dozens of cupcakes.
    Eliza has done a remarkable job of portraying grief in many different forms. She captures the way that it can become all-consuming and effect the way we treat others and ourselves.
    But this is also a book about having the courage to face the things that we don’t think are possible.
    It isn’t a happy story, although there are some funny parts woven in. It is a riveting story of hope, and of learning to pick up the pieces again.

  2. Ache by Eliza Henry-Jones is a story about grief, loss and finding yourself.
    Annie grew up on the mountain with her Gran and mother Susan, wild and free to explore the surrounding bush land with her Uncle Len and childhood friends.
    Annie’s world is torn apart when a fire rips through the mountain whilst she is visiting with her 6 year old daughter Pip.
    Annie and Pip are forced to flee down the mountain on Annie’s horse Luna to escape the fire and inadvertently become the face of the fire with there photo being snapped as they come off the mountain.
    Sadly Annie’s Gran who stayed at the house was killed, not by the fire but a tree falling on the house.
    Having trouble dealing with her trauma, Annie’s marriage to Tom starts to disintegrate, Pip is acting out, insisting on being called Phillip and carries a green scarf around, clearly traumatised by the ordeal.
    When a phone call from her Uncle comes about her mother not coping, Annie decides to leave the city behind and return to her mountain home, where everything and everyone is forever changed from the fire in an effort to find peace with herself and let the healing process start, thus then help her family, her marriage and those around her heal.
    Henry-Jones has done a wonderful job of weaving this story, I was kept intrigued by the flashbacks about Annie’s childhood and the day of the fire as to how the fire started and how each character fitted into the story. Each characters different way of dealing with there trauma was interesting but it wasn’t over the top with too many characters or too much going on.
    Thanks to Beauty and Lace and Harper Collins for the chance to review Ache.

  3. A year after a bush fire ripped Annie’s world apart Annie get a call from Uncle Len. He says that her mum’s not doing so well can she come back and see if she can help her.
    Annie and her daughter Pip leave the city and go back to the mountain to see what is wrong with her mum.

    Going back to a country town where you used to live is hard.
    Going back to that same country town after a fire destroyed many things and many people is even harder.
    Going back means dealing with the destruction of the fire, the loss of gran and dealing with life after the fire.
    Going back means moving on and letting go.
    Going back means forgiving, forgetting but not forgotten.

    This is a story of growth, regrowth, renewal and realising that some ties are forever.

    I have never read a novel by Eliza Henry Jones before and I found her story holds a lot of warmth and compassion and depth in a story of love, friendship and family it also brings home the truth about the devastation that a bushfire can have in our country.

    Life goes on after loss and Eliza is able to show it in a surprisingly warm way.

    Thank you to Beauty and Lace, Harper Collins and Eliza Henry Jones for giving me this book to read.

  4. Thank you for the opportunity to read Ache by Eliza Henry Jones.

    This was written in a different style than I am used to. I grew with the characters and enjoyed the descriptive, poignant style much more by the end.

    This is the story of Annie – her and her daughter Pip were caught up in a bushfire at her family home in the country. It affected everyone in town, burning her mother and grandmother’s home, terrifying her daughter Pip and husband Tom. Her grandmother didn’t make it out alive as a result, and her brother Len had his vet practice ruined.

    When Len says her Mum Susan is not doing well Annie knows she has to go back and deal with her nightmares. She takes her daughter Pip and this is the story of them learning to cope all in their different ways. Throw in an ex-boyfriend and his Mum, angry locals and a news crew wanting to do a documentary and you have the ingredients for a lot of blow ups and soul searching. Everyone has their own issues and priorities and these were interestingly written about. I felt for Tom as he was dealing with a lot of it on his own, but everything came together naturally at the end, as it would in real life.

  5. Ache a book by Eliza Henry Jones is a story of Annie who grew up on a mountain with her gran, and mother Susan. She spent her childhood exploring the bushland with her Uncle Len and childhood friends. When fire rips through the mountain when she is visiting her family with her daughter Pip who is 6 years old her world is torn apart. To escape the fire Annie and Pip leave the mountain on Annie’s horse Luna.

    Sadly Annie’s gran was killed during the bushfire but not from the fire but a falling tree that fell on her house. Having trouble with the trauma of the bushfire Annie’s marriage starts to fall apart, so when Annie receives a phone call from her Uncle Len letting her know her mum is not coping she decides to return to the mountain with Pip in an effort to find herself and try to heal not only herself but Pip and her marriage.

    This book is not one I would normally have chosen, being written in the third person but the way it was done I could really feel for Annie with all her trauma, anxiety, and sadness. The way the story was written grew on me as I continued reading, it showed how different people can deal with trauma in such different ways. Annie struggling with sleep walking and nightmares, Pip insisting on being called “Phillip” and misbehaving , and Susan who is unable to paint anymore. This story portrays grief in many in different forms, but also shows how having courage to face our demons can prove we can pick up the pieces again.

    Thank you for the opportunity to read Ache.

  6. This is a great book! The characters are trying to put themselves back together after a terrible bushfire that claimed the life of a family member and traumatised a community. While they escaped physical harm the emotional toll was high. This book makes you understand how traumatic bushfires are the horrors stay with you until you work your way through. I highly recommend Ache to everyone.
    Xxxx

  7. Last year, I was introduced to bright new voice in Australian literature, Eliza Henry-Jones, through the unforgettable experience of reading her debut novel, In the Quiet. Not only did In the Quiet sit firmly on my list of top reads for 2016, it also hit me with such understated force, that I still reflect back on this novel many books later. It is safe to say I have been eagerly anticipating the release of Ache since I first heard rumblings about the release of a second novel from Henry-Jones. When an opportunity presented itself through Beauty and Lace Book Club to review this book, I was quick off the mark to request a copy to read.

    Ache is a beautiful, poignant and jarring study into the aftermath of a very common natural disaster in this country, bushfire. Henry-Jones chooses to zone her story on four generations of women from the same family, directly impacted by a severe fire that rips through their home town of Quilly.

    If you haven’t already discovered the writing of Eliza Henry-Jones you need to make a conscious effort to rectify it through reading this novel, Ache, or her first novel, In the Quiet. Henry-Jones received much acclaim for her first novel and it is obvious why the accolades have come her way, her writing is nothing short of sublime.

    With her background in psychology, grief and loss counselling, Henry-Jones utilises this specialisation to ground her novel in a strong dose of realism, as well as understanding. Choosing to focus Ache on the after affects, including PTSD, from a bushfire disaster was tough. Nonetheless, I feel it is an essential topic to tackle. Unfortunately, our climate and landscape here in Australia makes us vulnerable to bushfires, such as the devastating one experience by the town of Quilly, featured in this novel. I was so very impressed by the treatment of this topic within the book. The reader is given a balanced picture of the true impact of this event. I felt like Henry-Jones covered all bases in the who, what, when, where, why and how questions surrounding the circumstances of the fire. The fashion in which these questions were answered were not immediate, rather gradually revealed as the book progressed. This served to draw me into Ache even further.

    The characterisation in Ache is spot on. Annie is the ideal lead, she is immediately likeable, and relatable, but she also comes with flaws. Her inner torment is obvious and through the third person narration employed by Henry-Jones, Annie becomes the focus of the novel. The reader is privy to the varied emotions Annie wrestles with throughout the novel. Pip, Annie’s six year old daughter, traumatised by fallout from her first hand experience of the dreadful fire, is the most well drawn young voice I have had the privilege of reading for some time. It takes measured skill to be able deliver a narrative and portray an array of characters in the vivid way Henry Jones does, she just seems to take it in her stride. The side characters, such as Annie’s alternative living mother Susan, the loveable Uncle Len and the Annie’s husband Tom, are as well drawn as their lead counterparts. I felt I came to know all these characters by the time my journey with Ache ended (regretfully).

    I must make mention of the landscape in Ache, as it is just wonderful, defined clearly by some stunning imagery and lyrical prose. I am unfamiliar with mountain based rural locations like the town of Quilly in Ache. Living in a well populated coastal location on the other side of Australia, means I have to rely significantly on the descriptors given by an author to portray their setting. This is where Henry-Jones truly excels. Her landscape passages are so beautifully drawn, the surrounding flora and fauna feature heavily and are easily imagined by the reader as a result. Henry-Jones also captures the desolation of the effects of bushfire to a region, in contrast to the positive regeneration of the same area that witness during the progression of the book. These were my favoured passages of the novel.

    Ache is a tender novel, concerning itself with matters such as family, loss, survival, reinvention and courage, meticulously written by an accomplished Australian author. I was impressed, but not at all surprised, by the way in which this absorbing character focussed novel lingered with me and will continue to resonate with me, long after closing the last page. Ache is a deeply impressive second novel from Ms Henry-Jones.

    *I wish to thank Beauty and Lace and the publisher for providing me with a copy of Ache for review purposes.

  8. While it took me a while to get into this book I must say it ended up a great read.

    Bushfires have to be one of the most devastating events that can occur harming the environment wildlife & humans but through time everything heals but emotional feelings take longer & I think Eliza Henry Jones has portrayed this so well in her book it was an enjoyable book?can we call it that More eye opening to the traumas of others who through grit & determination came through an emotional event
    I try not to go into the storyline as could be a spoiler for others but loved the character of Annie
    Thank you Beauty & Lace for the opportunity & will recommend to family & friends

  9. I’ll admit it took me a while to get into this novel. But I am glad I was able to read it.

    It’s quite a sad novel, the characters experience loss in all
    Ways possible after a terrible bush fire wipes everything out in their small town on the mountain.

    The story line was not predictable what so ever and I really liked that.

    Thanks you for the opportunity to read Ache by Eliza Henry Jones!

  10. Ache is a moving story about initially loss but primarily about healing and rebuilding of both homes and lives after a devastating bush fire destroys Annie’s childhood home and the people that she loves.
    Annie, our main character returns to the mountain a year after the devastating bush fire still not having come to terms with her grief and loss. Both she and her daughter, Pip, are still suffering.
    .This trip back to the mountain to check on her mum is also the beginning of her healing process, a trip she needed to have.
    Ella Henry Jones deals with the characters and the serious themes in this novel in a very caring and sensitive way.
    This was a very different read than I’m used to but one I enjoyed.
    Thank you Beauty and Lace for giving me the opportunity to read this book.

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