Why we love it: On its surface the storyline is simple, but underneath that simplicity is a collision of deafening conflicts, catastrophe, and regenerations. Eliza Henry-Jones stunned the Australian literary world with her debut novel In the Quiet, and this much-anticipated second novel Ache is a refinement of Eliza’s beautiful poetic voice.
A bushfire ravages Annie’s mountain community, scarring her daughter Pip, killing her grandmother, and leaving her home in ruins. Down in the city, one year later, visions of the fiery mountain continue to haunt Annie, and after receiving a call from her uncle encouraging her return, she feels the ghosts of the past rise up again. But nothing prepares her for the heartache bad memories will cause, and although Annie is still reeling from the trauma, she must tries to heal everyone around her: her daughter, her mother, and her marriage.
Despite its subject matter, Ache is far from a gloomy book. Eliza’s empathetic approach to her characters results in an uplifting, tender story. For Annie, the past and future collide in the present. As she experiences her marriage’s disintegration, she reflects on how she met Adam and fell in love with him; her mother, Susan, is a kindred spirit, a straight-shooter, but hasn’t always been that way; and Pip, her daughter, who insists on being called Philip, displays all the tell-tale signs of someone repressing trauma.
Although Annie loses herself in her memories of the mountain, she soon realises that the impression she left behind may not be as nostalgic as she hoped, and that some community members feel as though her ‘city-life’ and journalist career are acts of abandonment and betrayal.
As a young writer, Eliza Henry-Jones is erudite beyond her years. Critics marvelled at her debut novel In the Quiet, which was published when Eliza was twenty-five ( ‘You will weep, and marvel, and pass this book on, and on, to your friends,’ said Nikki Gemmell. Ache explores similar concepts of grief and shared loss but appropriates it into a mystical, mountain setting. There’s much to be said about the writing, too.
For Annie and her family, the road to recovery is populated by painful memories, but she will sacrifice anything to keep her family together – even if the bushfire’s devastation still burns bright in their minds.
Eliza Henry-Jones was born in Melbourne in 1990. She was a Young Writer-in-Residence at the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers’ Centre in 2012 and a recipient of a Varuna residential fellowship in 2015. She has qualifications in English, psychology and grief, loss and trauma counselling and completed an hours thesis exploring bushfire trauma in fiction. Eliza’s first book, In the Quiet (2015), was shortlisted for the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards and the Readings Prize for New Australian Fiction.