The Ash, the Well and the Bluebell by Sandra Arnold (Mākaro Press, 2019), 332 pp., $35
Canterbury writer Sandra Arnold is an accomplished contributor to the literary life of Aotearoa New Zealand. Her published work includes flash fiction, short stories, memoir and novels. She was co-founder, with David Howard, of the literary magazine takahē. The Ash, the Well and the Bluebell is her third novel.
The prologue opens the story with a jolt that for New Zealand readers will feel immediate and recent. Lily is enjoying precious moments with her much-loved daughter, Charlie, before Charlie leaves for a new job in Australia. They’re in a café in the centre of Christchurch on 22 February 2011. The date at the head of the chapter warns us. The earthquake leaves Lily in hospital, mind reeling and unable to grasp the fact of Charlie’s death. Among the jumble of nightmare and memory are images of her childhood in the village of Eshwell Bridge in the north-east of England. Chapter One takes us there, to 1955, when Lily is a child. [Read more…]