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Afterwards (Vintage International) Paperback – July 8, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Britain's ongoing involvement in Northern Ireland threatens the budding romance between Londoners Alice, a physical therapist, and Joseph, a decorator and house painter, in Seiffert's psychologically acute, relentlessly grim second novel (following the Booker shortlisted The Dark Room). Almost a decade has passed since Joseph, then a soldier, killed a suspected IRA terrorist at a military checkpoint. The incident haunts him, sometimes makes him violent and prevents him from forming serious attachments. Alice resents that Joseph is essentially shutting her out of his life. Her frustration is compounded by the birth father who's rejected her, and by the recent death of her maternal grandmother. Alice tenuously cares for her grandfather, David, whose emotional remoteness may be linked to his stint with the RAF in 1950s Kenya. When Joseph good-naturedly offers to do some free decorating at David's house, an easy rapport develops between the two reticent men, until things go wrong. Although the characters' politics are simplistic, Seiffert masterfully chronicles the trajectory, and the causes, of Alice and Joseph's damaged relationship. Her beautifully understated, pointed exploration of the emotional toll of guerrilla war shines with clarity and vision. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
*Starred Review* The hidden consequences of bloodshed have been London-based Seiffert's focus since her prizewinning debut, The Dark Room (2001). In her third exquisitely choreographed book, this fluently psychological writer portrays a sensitive nurse contending with two men of different generations deeply scarred by their military service. The daughter of a single mother who has never met her father, Alice is grieving for her recently deceased grandmother when she meets Joseph, a plasterer. Much as she enjoys his company, she is leery of his fierce privacy, which echoes her grandfather's frustrating silence about his time in Kenya during the Mau Mau uprising. Seiffert, adept at conveying the significance of the simplest of daily routines, writes with equal conviction from both Alice's and Joseph's points of view, so the reader is privy to Joseph's suffering over a killing in Northern Ireland and Alice's grandfather's haunting confessions to the younger man. Each scene of tenderness, conflict, or surrender is a marvel of narrative delicacy as each character slowly traverses a minefield of emotions, seeking understanding of his and her own pain as well as the anguish of others. Seiffert has written an unusually beautiful, restrained, and trenchant novel of the invisible yet lasting traumas of war. Seaman, Donna --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
The greatest "self brainwash" jobs that most of us face, such as "it could be worse" (in a relationship or job), or everyone else does it (in tax evasion or environmentally unsavory behaviors) pale by comparison to a vet (this novel) or public safety official's comprehension and reconciliation of an act of extreme violence to other human beings.
In this case the author connects two such characters from distinctly separate generations that are equally reflective and emotionally troubled by their past military experiences. She (the author) expertly connects them via a number of equally reflective and also very "caring" characters, including and especially the younger man's girlfriend and older man's grand-daughter, Alice.
You can put this book down, and pick it up again, as I did (14 day library loan notwithstanding), but only until the 2/3 mark. After this point you have developed your own theories as to what exactly the older man knows, or thinks he understands, about the younger, and how the now troubled relationship between the younger man and Alice will play out.
I can only tell you that Alice will be wiping a spot of bicycle chain grease from her leg before you will be able to evaluate the personal theories this novel forces you to formulate.
This novel will leave you considering all that you have chosen not to share, the impact of this "non-sharing", and you may also become more aware and understanding of the cleaning man (who shows up at your office when you are leaving) sporting a "Viet Nam Vet" baseball cap......and limping.
My final, and admittedly somewhat obtuse, observation is that the author made a repetitive point of demonstrating the impact of the natural world (vs urban) in cleansing or at least calming both the emotion tension and internal unrest among the characters. I found this a very interesting connection to recent articles stating that the dreaded juvenile ADS (Attention Deficit Syndrome) should really be re-named NDS for Nature Deficit Syndrome - after several studies where placement of so called sufferers for a regular few hours in a natural environment dramatically improved their symptoms....
John M. Peck