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Ash Before Oak Reviews

Ash Before Oak by Jeremy Cooper

Ash before Oak

Jeremy Cooper

3.83 out of 5

3 reviews

Imprint: Fitzcarraldo Editions
Publisher: Fitzcarraldo Editions
Publication date: 17 Apr 2019
ISBN: 9781910695890

The winner of the inaugural Fitzcarraldo Editions Novel Prize, ASH BEFORE OAK is a novel in the form of a fictional journal written by a solitary man on a secluded Somerset estate.

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4 stars out of 5
Phil Baker
5 May 2019

"It feels like a healing experience."

Low-key and understated, this beautiful book, from the excellent small publisher Fitzcarraldo, is a civilised and melancholy document that slowly progresses towards a sense of enduring, going onwards, and even new life. It feels like a healing experience.


3 stars out of 5
8 Jun 2019

"a mixture of deep reflection and unexpected historic details"

Sebald is undoubtedly an influence on the technique and structure of Ash Before Oak with its mixture of deep, despondent reflection and unexpected historic details. Along the way, for example, we get an account of Tim Warr, a former housemaster at Harrow who played rugby for England and “re-visited time after time during the week of his death the try he had scored for England at Cardiff Arms Park, toppling out of bed onto the floor as he dived in his mind across the line”. Such digressions appear completely spontaneous within the logic and flow of the diary entries. But almost all of them are primarily concerned with sensitive considerations of nature... [W]ho is this man? Jeremy Cooper? Perhaps much of what is contained in this diary-as-novel happened to him. It doesn’t matter. We read it for its own worth and that worth is not contained in a name.

4 stars out of 5
29 May 2019

"A journal as therapeutic fiction"

Instead of a clear story, what Cooper offers, very boldly and successfully, is a broad narrative arc of collapse and tentative recovery, in which a struggle for meaning and purpose in life assumes a desperate intensity. The radical lopsidedness created by the narrator’s omissions makes these solipsistic fragments (and at times these lonely pages do cry out for a bit more human company) life-affirming, as well as fiercely harrowing, in a very unusual way. Because of the narrator’s inability to describe his anguish, what’s mostly written here is not his pain, but his clinging to life: the beauty caught and traced, with great skill, in trying to overcome suffering.