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What Burns Away by Melissa Falcon Field
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What Burns Away

by Melissa Falcon Field

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Suburban pyromaniac rekindles old flame. (Sorry, couldn't resist.)

Joking aside, I loved this very well-written story about the challenges of love. Over a framework of suburban malaise, a lost-in-her-marriage approaching-middle-age woman is suddenly yanked backward to a time of heightened passion (and pain) by the sudden reappearance of her very first love. Danger ensues as Claire's past wildness returns to threaten both her present and future. Love - both parental and peer - is combustible, is the book's great metaphor, and like fire, love needs great care if we are to keep it under control. We are shown evidence of that throughout, right down to the final dangerous act and an unexpected twist at the end. ( )
  jimnicol | Feb 21, 2017 |
If you'll excuse the pun, I found this was initially a slow burner, but when it started to take off I really didn't see what was coming.

Claire gave up a fulfilling job to become a stay at home Mum to a toddler, but is finding her new role not as satisfying as she anticipated. Add to this the fact that she has just moved miles away from family and friends for her workaholic husband's new job and life starts to get her down. Into this void steps Dean her first boyfriend who finds her on Facebook.

The story is told via flashbacks to their teenage romance alternating past and present. When Dean turns up for real on her doorstep, Claire's life really begins to spiral out of control. With unimaginable consequences.

While at times I lost patience with Claire, I think most of us can empathise with some of her feelings. For her, life is something she feels she's lost control of and looking back she sees the person she was, with hopes and dreams and just wonders where that person went. The re-appearance of Dean lets her re-live her youth and become that person again, although she learns the hard way that the grass is not always greener.

I think the fact that I was really engaged by the story despite not always liking the characters is testament to how well it was written. For me Claire is very immature, her husband worthy but selfish and Dean still the chancer he was when he was younger. This would make a good book club read as it raises issues about relationships, marriage, motherhood, careers against a background of living in the present and not the past.

As a debut novel this is a great start.

I received and ARC via NetGalley in return for an honest review.





( )
  Jilldoyle | Mar 27, 2016 |
A special thank you to SOURCEBOOKS Landmark and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.


What Burns Away by Melissa Falcon Field is a powerful debut of a middle aged mother; a woman who has lost herself, and the temptation of the past; excitement, a risk –a captivating and intense page-turner of loyalty, forgiveness and atonement.


Claire Spruce, a mother and wife– she is lonely and feels isolated. Miles, the physician husband provides for his family. He is caught up in his career and Claire does not fit in.


A past, an old flame resurfaces, social media connection, a father’s infidelity, a mother-daughter relationship, marriage, children, motherhood, expectations, careers, anger, resentment, a life without fire, ambition, affection, attachment, isolation, love, the past, the present, the future –what will Claire choose?


Told in the present day with flashbacks to Claire’s teen years, highlighting her time with Dean and her parents. An emotional novel of choices, second chances, secrets, a fairy tale marriage destroyed and a woman who does not see or appreciate what is in front of her.


Melissa Falcon Field delivers a second coming of age novel, as many readers will connect, as we look back on our life for “an awakening”, as we redefine ourselves both personally and professionally as we move forward.


What Burns Away dives into a woman’s mind for a suspenseful novel of love and betrayal; the power of the past, for readers young and old. We all experience change as we grow older, as materialistic things which were important to us in the past, have been replaced with more simplistic things, where you learn to live on less without all the baggage. Time is more important.


Unfortunately as the author mentions, we cannot stop aging – it is a fact of life; however, rather than focus on outside appearances, we have to capture our inner self. This is especially difficult for women, emotionally sometimes; and the author depicts the struggle of past and present, as Claire redefines herself.


The social media presence in the novel is very realistic as couples get bored with their lives and the fantasy of what would have been, and old flames sometimes surface. (the grass is not always greener). Many women will relate to parts of Claire’s character— actions have consequences.


Fans of literary fiction, women's fiction, and family drama will enjoy this well-written suspense debut novel. The novel would make an ideal selection for book clubs or discussions regarding the different perspectives of characters, and what ifs. ( )
  JudithDCollins | Mar 14, 2015 |
What Burns Away by Melissa Falcon Field is a poignant novel about loss, loneliness, longing and burning temptation.

Claire Spruce is struggling after moving from New England to Wisconsin with her physician husband, Miles. While she loves being with her much wanted toddler son, Jonah, she misses her former home, her career as a research meteorologist, and the company of her busy, distracted husband who often works 18 hour days. Overwhelmed, frustrated and restless, when Claire reconnects with her childhood sweetheart, Dean, via Facebook, she is startled and then drawn to the memory of light, heat and warmth he offers.

“I found my loneliness blooming— missing…our former life, who I was before I became a mother, my job, my brain, my research, my body, and who Miles and I used to be together. I started living my life looking backward, seeking out the past and longing for familiarity because nothing in our new life was recognizable to me.”

Field has created an interesting, complex character in Claire, who is struggling with her present and haunted by her past. Unable to really consider the consequences, she is drawn to Dean, or perhaps more accurately to what he represents, as helplessly as a moth is to a flame.

The pace is measured, perhaps a little slow to start but worth persevering with. The writing is evocative and the settings vividly rendered. The suspense builds steadily as Claire’s behaviour grows more erratic and the flickering flame becomes a raging inferno threatening to destroy everything Claire loves.

A taut, atmospheric and impassioned tale, What Burns Away is a compelling read. ( )
  shelleyraec | Jan 6, 2015 |
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Relocating to snowy Madison, Wisconsin, with her distant physician husband, New England native Claire Spruce confronts dark elements from her past when her first love offers her an intoxicating escape from her monotonous existence.

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