Member Reviews

Wow. ‘The Echoes’ by Evie Wyld, will undoubtedly be a contender as my favourite read of 2024. Wyld sure can write and it’s one of those incredible page turners that also make you want to slow down to absorb every word. It’s a vivid novel that will stay with me for long time.

Echoes is largely about a relationship that was ‘not perfect. But just right’, between Hannah and Max, and the life that went on before and after tragedy. We therefore know from the offset that Max is also the ghost of the husband past and his ending isn’t going to be a happy one. I was intrigued as to how a ghostly character would work and also somewhat concerned that I may find it to be a silly device; but the effect was far from it, it allowed us a unique perspective on the lives Max witnessed after his death, in a way that would only be possible through the omnipresence of a ghostly spectre. Max also offered a humorous, and ironic narrative at times, which was richly effective and gave the whole plot an entirely extra dimension. Oh and Cotton the cat deserves a mention here too - he deserves his own riotous applause.

The novel’s structure is defined by chapters around the ever changing time periods ‘before’ his death, ‘after’ and ‘then’, along with individual chapters which provide character focus on singular minor characters, to add extra perspective and plot depth. The revelations that come throughout the development of the story are often not an easy read, as past traumas are unsurfaced, but boy is it well crafted.

It’s an incredibly intimate novel, with a remarkable level of literary observation. And the ending… no spoilers, but I think it’s exquisite! I will be seeking out Evie Wyld’s back catalogue for sure.

I feel very honoured to have received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest, unbiased review of ‘The Echoes’. I highly recommend it.

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Interesting book with a dark, reflective story. I have not been introduced to such writing style before. I also enjoyed the ending — made me think about the book long after I had finished it.

Evie Wyld is a skilful writer, and I will be reading more of her works in the future.

Thank you NetGalley and Random House UK, Vintage for bestowing this book to me.

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A complex and searing meditation on the things that haunt us. Wyld is a deft and skilled writer that beautifully explores these complex issues.

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Both a celebration and autopsy of a relationship, The Echoes is a novel about stories and who has the right to tell them, asking what of our past can we shrug off and what is fixed forever.

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A stunning dark, intimate, and affecting book which grabbed my attention from the first page.

Recently dead Max haunts the London flat where Hannah his grieving girlfriend still lives. They are both stricken by the loss of what they could have been and the recognition of what they never were.

While Max permeates the flat, trying to make some kind of contact with her, Hannah is dogged by her past, a dark thing of desperation and trauma which she has tried to bury, and which brought her from the Australian bush to this precise place 

The timelines shift between generations and countries exploring Hannah’s secret, and the couple’s shared, pasts, and revealing the monstrous and beautiful complexities of human connection.

We see the harsh realities of trauma and the pernicious coping strategies which can inhibit our ability to move beyond the echoes of our past, or cause us to amplify those echoes. There are horrors, glimpsed fleetingly - like ghosts, no less - and they linger for us, and for the characters, without melodrama, They seep into us. A cold clammy weight, growing heavier as we piece together the fragments of Hannah’s family history.

It’s not an easy comfortable read by any means, and it contains pretty much every trigger you could expect.

It is dark and strange and it will settle around your shoulders for days after you have finished it. You will marvel at the economy and precision with which Wyld can depict a complex relationship dynamic or a shrouded tension, and make you see and feel it all while keeping so much unsaid and unseen.

Remarkable and brilliant.

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This was such a powerful read! The various POVs across the three timelines were very well made and easy to keep track of. A generational tale between Australia and England, with a slightly paranormal touch via the figure of Max.

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When Max dies, he becomes an unwilling ghost in the flat he shared with his now grieving girlfriend Hannah. As the narrative shifts between this present, the period of their relationship and Hannah’s childhood in Australia, and is told through the eyes of different characters, it becomes clear that both Hannah and the family she has fled from have been shaped by the traumatic events of their past. Haunting (literally!) and deeply sad, this book takes an unflinching look at the way cruelty and abuse can be passed down through the generations and be incredibly hard to escape. The characters are flawed and their behaviour sometimes appalling, but they are very human and portrayed with sympathy and understanding. The writing is skilful and vivid. A sometimes harrowing read, but utterly memorable and ending on a note of hope.

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Evie Wyld’s ‘The Echoes’ opens with first-person narration from Max, a ghost, as he watches his (ex) girlfriend Hannah roam around in the London flat they shared. Subsequent chapters switch between ghost Max, Hannah’s perspective before the accident that resulted in Max’s death, and third-person narration exploring Hannah’s youth and estranged family decades previously in Australia. The result is that what I expected to be a quirky novel about death and life after death proved instead to be a thoughtful, engaging and moving examination of abuse, generational trauma (this term is thrown around a lot, but I think is very accurate here) and colonialism.

While the subject matter sounds heavy - and it is, Wyld is dealing with some very big themes here - the novel never feels remotely like a struggle. The prose is so engaging, witty and often beautiful and I found it completely involving. I loved Max and Hannah, both of them flawed and human and incredibly well-realised. Their relationship is complicated and messy, with both of them failing to communicate well and hiding things from each other - which we see through the eyes of Hannah in the moment, and Max after his death, stuck watching Hannah in the flat they shared.

The real core of the novel, though, are the sections revealing Hannah’s childhood and family life - another thing she keeps secret from Max. This storyline unravels slowly, perfectly paced and constantly engaging. Scenes of happy family life are haunted by a looming sense that something has to go wrong; we are introduced to Hannah’s family and grow to care for them deeply, all the while moving gradually closer to finding out what was the catalyst behind her eventual estrangement. It’s a beautifully layered plot, delving into the psyche and history of each character, and the land that they live on.

Ultimately this is a novel about dealing with the echoes of the past - the dark and complicated histories that Hannah, chiefly, contends with. The prose is witty and often fun, but the themes and ideas at play are complex and dark. I thought this was a hugely accomplished novel from an author I hadn’t read before - but am now desperate to read more from. Massively recommended, and without a doubt one of my top books of this year.

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"I do not believe in ghosts, since my death has become something of a problem." Evie Wyld's latest novel, The Echoes, begins with this striking declaration. It is an atmospheric exploration of trauma, grief, and the everlasting effects of intergenerational trauma, serving as an allegory for death. The description of the book can be slightly misleading, giving the impression it is a supernatural romance novel when the book is so much more. At the very start, the reader notices there are two narratives: the story of Max, a sharp-tongued British lad who finds himself unexpectedly as a ghost, and Hannah, his Aussie girlfriend, an "angry" lass full of hidden trauma, trying to navigate her identity in this new place.

The book addresses sensitive topics such as immigration, abortion, ethnic cleansing, and self-harm without glorification, nor melodrama, nor exploring too deep. Wyld's masterful storytelling immerses readers in a world where the boundaries between the living and the dead blur. While the novel's exploration of grief and loss is undoubtedly bleak, there are also gorgeous passages and interactions – with some funny dialogues. Through Hannah's journey, Wyld offers a glimmer of hope amidst the weight of death, suggesting that even in the face of overwhelming sorrow, healing and growth are possible. Also, Max's perspective offers a unique angle into the lives of those around Hannah, serving as a breather throughout the book.

Hannah is a character defined by loss and the weight of the past. Her grief over the death of her boyfriend is palpable, and her relationship with her mother is charged with shame and resentment. Slowly, Wyld reveals the layers of Hannah's character, showcasing her vulnerability, resilience, and the complexities of navigating life after trauma. At first glance, one might assume that Hannah and Max had little connection after six years together. However, much of Max's commentary on Hannah is unreliable, and there is significant underlying tension between them. This is told brilliantly through the alternation between first-person narration in Max's chapters and third-person narration in the others. Hannah's connection to the Australian landscape, particularly the remote and unforgiving outback, is integral to her identity and becomes evident during her childhood chapters. It's a place both haunting and grounding, reflecting the dualities within Hannah herself.

Wyld delves into the emotional distress, the process of healing, and the impact of loss on individuals and relationships. The Echoes is a powerful meditation on the sense of identity and belonging. It is a stark reminder that the violence of the past is never truly gone; its echoes can reverberate through generations, shaping the present and future. It explores how unresolved issues and traumas can echo through generations, affecting individuals and communities.

Ultimately, The Echoes is a book that lingers in the mind long after the final page is turned. It is a testament to Evie Wyld's talent as a writer and a thought-provoking exploration of the human experience. I highly recommend this book if you’re interested in knowing a bit more about the effects of colonisation on one’s identity.

Many thanks to Random House UK and NetGalley for the eARC in exchange for my honest review.

Ps.: The review will be published on Amazon UK and Goodreads on the publication date.

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I’m not sure about this novel. It is well written and the idea of a ghost ‘reviewing’ the life of his girlfriend is an interesting one. However, I struggled to sort out the female characters and found the chapters in Australia hard to follow. Ultimately, a sad read with very few lighter moments.

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Definitely an interesting read and one that makes you think. Multipl perspectives of relationships, grief, loss. I found it quite slow going and depressing. It maybe one I should read again

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I have yet to read an Evie Wyld novel that I didn't enjoy and this one is excellent.

Split between 3 narratives, the story of Hannah and the secrets of her past are revealed to us through her present day life, her childhood in Australia and through the eyes of her recently deceased boyfriend Max's ghost! It's hard to say much without spoiling the story, but this is a book that looks at relationships and how family dynamics affect and live on through the generations and how, in turn they affect the other relationships in our lives.

Compelling and thought-provoking, I'll definitely be recommending this to library readers.

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The Echoes is a well written but, to me, a sad book dealing with emotions and grief following a sudden death. Told in different timelines and from different pov's it explores families, relationships and secrets. Thank you to the author, the publisher and netgalley for an arc.

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Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an advance copy of this book with no obligation to review.

This is a well written book which provides a lot to discuss and to think about but it is a sad and very depressing read as we shudder and weep for the blighted lives of all our characters..

We have big issues here, the sins of the fathers (or in this case mothers) being visited on their children; the almost impossibility of escape for those who want to try; the ties that still bind even although we might want to break them. I think everyone in the book has been abused in some way to a much greater or lesser extent so it makes for very uncomfortable reading.

I am sorry to say that I regularly lost track of which female character was who and how they were related to the modern day main character of Hannah. I think the portrayal of the relationship between Max and Hannah is well done.

A worthy and thought provoking book but unrelentingly bleak. Strong stuff.

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CW: I’ll generalise these as traumatic events.
Someone does, then this someone watches a loved one deal with all stages of grief and intergenerational trauma.
The Echoes is structured into different sections for different timelines and POVs. While this was only about 1% of the reading experience, I am camp ‘the titles carry a weight too’ and kept wondering if the chapter were named differently, if that would have added to my experience.
Though, the structure and the signposting are clear and this book is an ideal length.
In the end, I felt sorry for most of the characters, but despite the darker aspects of this book, Wyld knows how to deal with sensitive or dark themes and topics.
Plot: 3.5
Themes: 4.5
Writing: 4.5
Characterisation: 4
Idea/concept: 4
The setting: 3.5

I look forward to reading Wyld’s future work.
Thank you #netgalley and #joanthancape for an ARC.
I feel very fortunate this summer thanks to some of the books that I have been reading.

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What worked for me:
- Our concept of exploring grief through the eyes of someone stuck as a ghost is what drew me to this book - I’ve never read anything quite like it!
- The writing in this book is excellent
- Our story is artfully plotted, detailing layers of generational trauma with with incredibly human, complex, and raw characterisations
- I loved all the mentions of the London parakeets
- The importance of the residential school theme - in a book about intergenerational trauma, this was a beautiful way of illustrating the trauma that White settlers inflicted on generations of Indigenous people. My roots shouldn’t be growing over these bones.

What confused me:
- While I understood Hannah’s reticence to share her past and trauma with Max, I genuinely didn’t understand why she stayed with him. They didn’t seem like they had a healthy or caring relationship. I found Max really hard to like, especially as we spent time with him as a ghost: he felt pompous, whiny, and kinda creepy.

What I wasn’t so keen on:
- The story itself is verybleak - I closed this book feeling very heavy
- I wasn’t wild about the vivid descriptions of Max watching Hannah empty her menstrual cup

I was privileged to have my request to read this book accepted through NetGalley. Thank you, Random House UK, Vintage.

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This is really a book in two parts. There is the odd perspective of Max, who finds himself a ghost in his own flat, watching the aftermath of his sudden death, and learning more about his girlfriend and the reality of their relationship now that it has ended but he can still bear witness. The other part is the earlier storyline of Hannah's childhood in a remote part of Australia known as the Echoes and the events that led her to move to London and become estranged from her family. The atmosphere of the two is very different, though Hannah's loneliness and longing is key in both. Wyld is excellent in conjuring internal and external isolation as well as sowing the seeds that lead to that creeping sense that there is something dark below the surface. I enjoyed both parts but couldn't shake the feeling that they didn't really belong together and that both deserved to be a story within its own right without the baggage of the other. Nevertheless, Wyld is an excellent author and her ability to meld past and present, the mundane and the ethereal gives her books wonderful depth and tone, though here it it not shown as strongly as her other works.

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The Australian born, London based author Evie Wyld’s first three novels have all been prize winners – “After the Fire, A Small Voice” (John Llewellyn Rhys Prize), “All The Birds Singing” (Miles Franklin Award, RSL Encore Award), “Bass Rock” (Stella Prize) – of which the most prestigious are the two Australian award; she was also part of the 2013 group of the decennial Granta Best of British Young Novelists list.

It is perhaps appropriate then that this, her fourth novel, is set part in London and part in Australia and very much about the long links, and echoes between the two.

The book opens in a section titled “After” and in the voice of Max and the memorable opening line “I do not believe in ghosts, which, since my death, has become something of a problem”. Max – an Englishman - is in the South West London flat he shared/shares with his Australian flatmate Hannah (who after the creative writing course where they first met gave up writing and works in a pub) and unsure of exactly how he died, how to communicate to Hannah and how to leave the flat (either terrestrially or on a spiritual plane level). Max now teaches creative writing which enables him Wyld via him to engage in some meta-meditation on the difficulty of having him as the central character at the heart of a story when he does not really know what he wants, cannot change and cannot encounter experiences – “I realise now why ghosts are not the main character of the novel”.

And really its is Hannah who is instead the main character – Max’s ”After” sections alternate with “Before” sections in the first person voice of Hannah in the period leading up to Max’s death and some third party and multi-character “Then” sections which tell the complex story of Hannah’s family.

London-based Hannah has recently had an abortion she keeps secret from Max, self-harms (which she again keeps secret) and has completely estranged herself from her ex-goat-farming parents in Australia (for reasons she also does not disclose to Max despite his curiosity). She moved to this particular area of London to be close to a house whose picture is on a small black and white photograph she has of her grandmother (Na)Talia who left for Australia with her mother and father when she was just a girl.

Hannah’s views is that her family “should never have wound up in Australia” and that all of the traumas and difficulties her family faced and which lead to their eventual estrangement have its roots in the decision to emigrate.

As we proceed through the “Then” sections this story gradually unfolds – told in the story of Hannah while she was still at home in an area called the Echoes. Hannah and her increasingly rebellious older sister Rachel live with their parents on the family goat farm, built in the grounds of an old school where indigenous children were taken from their parents, forced into a strict Western education, and often buried in the grounds – something which her mother’s brother Uncle Tone (seemingly like her mother traumatised by the secrets of their own upbringing) is the only one prepared to acknowledge, although unable to deal with other than by attacking those he perceives as not taking it seriously enough.

And the ”Then” sections also contain close third party point of view sections named after various characters (Mr Manningtree – whose parents ran the school, Hannah’s father Piers, Tone’s partner Melissa – all three of these having their own difficult upbringings, Tone, Hannah’s mother Kerry, Rachel – from after she flees home, Natalia) and we see more than ever how abuses and transgressions reverberate across generations in the family and in a country where the same is true (as signified by the terrible history of the school).

The book is impressively executed – the relationship between Max and Hannah and the difficulty of making it succeed when Hannah has not really come to terms with her own generational past, let alone shared it with Max is particularly well done. The complex and conflicted character of Uncle Tone is also well done as are a number of the modern day side characters (for example Hannah’s single-mother friend Janey who could easily hold her own novel).

If had an issue it is that the theme of the book is perhaps a little over done: every character (whatever their generation) seems to have a current day issue stemming from the way they were parented, which in turn is due to the way in which their parents were parented; if “the Echoes” is a real place then it would be a powerful metaphor but I have no reason to believe it is not fictional and as a result its naming in a way to capture the theme of the book seems heavy handed (rather like television programmes which reverse engineer nominative determinism); and I was not really sure the author did enough to justify her choice of having a character as a ghost (which again is a rather obvious analogy for much of what the book is trying to say)

But overall I would not be surprised to see this on prize lists.

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'The Echoes' by Evie Wyld is a beautiful novel that explores the impact trauma can have down the generations.

Hannah is haunted by her dead boyfriend Max. Their relationship had highs and lows and secrets, particularly on Hannah's side. From different points of view, these secrets are revealed, and the reader comes to understand why Hannah moved from rural Australia to London, and why she refused to allow Max to meet her family.

Wyld is an amazing writer. This novel is cleverly written, particularly the chapters set in Australia, which are compelling, warm and devastating in equal measure. Max was a writing teacher, and the only part I was less keen on was when writing technique was discussed as it pulled me out of the story a little bit. However, whilst this is not an easy read, its an important one and one I am sure a wide readership will enjoy.

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I read and very much enjoyed Evie Wyld’s first two novels, After the Fire, A Still Small Voice and All the Birds, Singing. Wyld is a British/Australian literary fiction writer who grew up in both countries and now lives in London, and her writing tends to meld the contrasting worlds of urban Britain and outback Australia in interesting ways. Her latest novel, The Echoes, is no exception. We start in London with the voice of Max, a ghost who’s not very happy about his predicament:

“I do not believe in ghosts, which, since my death, has become something of a problem.”

We then go back to before Max’s death to see him living with his Australian girlfriend Hannah, and then we delve deeper into the past to Hannah’s childhood in The Echoes, a desolate part of the Australian outback that’s haunted by echoes of the Aboriginal people who were displaced from the land and of the notorious local school in which hundreds of Aboriginal children, having been forcibly separated from their parents, were forcibly detained and fed mathematics by white teachers who seemed genuinely to believe they were doing something good, even as the children persisted in running away or killing themselves in despair.
the echoes by evie wyld

Amid the misery of Hannah’s childhood, she holds onto an old black and white photograph of a child, her grandmother, standing in front of an old house in London. The photograph, for her, represents a time of hope, before the family moved to Australia, before things started to go wrong. If she could just get back to that place, she reasons, it will be possible to mend everything that was broken.

The echoes of the title, then, are multi-faceted. It’s the name of the place where Hannah grew up, but there are also echoes of past events (mostly past trauma) rippling through the lives of everyone in the book. The powerlessness of Max, the ghost floating around in the London flat, observing Hannah first grieving and then slowly moving on to a new life without him, is not too different from many of the other characters. Unlike him, they can actually influence the world around them and try to break free of the echoes of the past, but many of them struggle to do so. Hannah is able to find her way to live in the same region of London as her ancestors left from, and she even visits the house from the photograph, but it provides no answers. She still secretly self-harms, still seems stuck in her life, still struggles to escape from the echoes of the past.

Wyld handles the multiple, inter-generational timelines effectively. They are all interspersed in chapters that follow the same pattern throughout the book: we start with “After” in the voice of Max the ghost, and then we go to “Before” to witness the recent past with Hannah and Max, told from Hannah’s point of view, and then we go back to “Then” to witness the more distant past in The Echoes in Australia, told in limited third person from Hannah’s point of view. There are also separate chapters named after other characters in the outback story, in which the third-person narration switches to their perspective to reveal things that are often very different.

It might sound difficult to follow, but it isn’t. The pattern of After/Before/Then, After/Before/Then starts to feel quite familiar and even appropriate, like the echoes of the title bouncing around from past to present and back again. And, for me, each strand worked well on its own. It’s worth mentioning, however, that when I referred to this book in my May reading roundup, Bill from The Australian Legend blog said he wasn’t impressed by Evie Wyld’s knowledge of the Australian outback—not in this particular book but in her previous writing. I mention that because I’ve found the UK settings in Wyld’s writing very authentic and true, and I wanted to include a different perspective from someone who lives and works in the rural Australian settings that Wyld also covers in her work.

The Echoes might also sound like quite a dark book, and that part is true. Evie Wyld’s writing tends to be, from what I’ve seen. She grapples with the effects of trauma, so it’s kind of inescapable. It’s not all bleak, though: there is some hope in the book, and not everyone is trapped forever in the echoes of the past. But it does pose the question of how we escape from the clutches of the past when we’ve gone so far down the wrong road. Wyld weaves the personal and political together, posing the same question for the characters and for societies.

Uncle Tone often alludes to both at the same time in his drunken outbursts to a young Hannah. After an awkward attempt to acknowledge the Wongi people on whose land they now live, he then adds:

“I’m not sure if they’d have taken that deal, when we first arrived off the boats. ‘Yeah, mate, don’t worry about it. We’re here now. We’re going to take the land and murder your kids. And murder the memory that you even fucking existed. Take your language away. But it’s OK, because in about two hundredodd years a bunch of cunts in an art gallery will acknowledge you. And they’ll all feel a bit better. Deal?’”

He then refers to the schoolhouse where he now lives, putting down roots amid the bones of all the dead children in the dust.

“But even if we moved. This whole fucking place. There’s bones all over the whole fucking place. My roots shouldn’t be growing over those bones.”

Realising he’s freaked out Hannah and her sister, he goes silent and then tries to lighten the mood by shouting “Boo!” and making them jump. Then he says:

“I dunno… sorry, girls. There’s no unfucking it, is there? Once you’ve fucked it up there’s no unfucking it.”

I’m quoting from that scene at length because it seems central to the concerns of The Echoes. And it doesn’t just apply to Australia, of course. All around the world, from Gaza to Ukraine to Myanmar to the Congo to the ice shelfs of Greenland and beyond, many people have fucked up many things. I wouldn’t agree with Uncle Tone that there’s no unfucking it, but the unfucking is always much more difficult than the upfucking.

Uncle Tone is himself a deeply flawed character who has some pretty awful things done to him and does something pretty awful things to others. He is willing to talk about things that others prefer to remain silent about, but in terms of his actions, he just tends to make things a whole lot worse. He’s trapped in the echoes, and he can’t talk his way out.

As I said, though, there are glimmers of hope. It’s not all bleakness. It seems appropriate to recall the title of Wyld’s first novel: After the Fire, A Still Small Voice. Whether you call it the fire or the echoes or the fucking up, it’s extraordinarily difficult to escape from the wrongs of the past. You can’t simply pursue a faded black and white photograph and hope to turn back the clock to a time when things were better. But even in the midst of despair, there’s often a still, small voice within all of us that dares to strive for something better than what we’ve been given. And that voice is what we need to hold onto. It’s our only hope.

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