Afterwards Rachel Seiffert
Rachel Seiffert’s first book, The Dark Room, shortlisted for the Booker Prize, announced the arrival of a major writer; Afterwards fulfills that promise with a stunning novel about war and its brutal after-effect.
Alice is the protagonist of Afterwards, but this book is about the guilt harboured by people around her. There are two men in her life: her maternal grandfather, David, recently widowed, and her boyfriend, Joseph, each of whom keeps his past from his loved ones. David served in Kenya during the Mau Mau rebellion; Joseph, during a stint in the British army, served in Northern Ireland. Both, we learn, live with the memory of having killed in the line of duty.
As Alice’s relationship with Joseph develops, she senses there is something about his past that he keeps hidden. This is particularly galling given the personal and emotional details she has revealed to him (namely, that Alice has never met her father, and her attempts to establish an epistolary relationship with him in adulthood foundered). After her grandmother’s death, Alice finds the time spent with her grandfather awkward. She doesn’t know him the way she did her grandmother, but feels obliged to visit and offer support. Gradually, it emerges that David’s cold manner is traceable to events in Kenya, where he and his wife met. And as Alice tries to get to the bottom of Joseph’s reticence, a series of heated family discussions brushes ever closer to David’s secrets.