The Railwayman's Wife

A Novel

The Railwayman's Wife

For fans of The Light Between Oceans, this “exquisitely written, true book of wonders” (Geraldine Brooks, Pulitzer Prize-winning author) explores the aftermath of World War II in an Australian seaside town, and the mysterious poem that changes the lives of those who encounter it.

In 1948, in a town overlooking the vast, blue ocean, Anikka Lachlan has all she ever wanted—until a random act transforms her into another postwar widow, destined to raise her daughter on her own. Awash in grief, she looks for answers in the pages of her favorite books and tries to learn the most difficult lesson of all: how to go on living.

A local poet, Roy McKinnon, experiences a different type of loss. How could his most powerful work come out of the brutal chaos of war, and why is he now struggling to regain his words and his purpose in peacetime? His childhood friend Dr. Frank Draper also seeks to reclaim his pre-war life but is haunted by his failure to help those who needed him most—the survivors of the Nazi concentration camps.

Then one day, on the mantle of her sitting room, Ani finds a poem. She knows neither where it came from, nor who its author is. But she has her suspicions. An unexpected and poignant love triangle emerges, between Ani, the poem, and the poet—whoever he may be.

Written in clear, shining prose, The Railwayman’s Wife explores the power of beginnings and endings—and how difficult it can be to tell them apart. It is an exploration of life, loss, tragedy, and joy, of connection and separation, longing and acceptance, and an unadulterated celebration of love that “will have you feeling every emotion at once” (Bustle).
  • Washington Square Press | 
  • 288 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781501128660 | 
  • December 2016
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Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for The Railwayman’s Wife includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Ashley Hay. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


Amidst the strange, silent aftermath of World War II in a small Australian coastal town, a widow, a poet, and a doctor search for lasting peace and fresh beginnings in this internationally acclaimed, award-winning novel.

Topics & Questions for Discussion

1. Consider the following quote: “Mac raised his cup and paused—the smallest toast—to drink. That was marriage, he thought, remaking yourself in someone else’s image. And who knew where the truth of it began or would end?” (p. 149). Do you agree with Mac’s interpretation of marriage?

2. In response to Isabel’s question about where Mac is after death, along with fallen soldiers, Annika states: “It’s probably like your kaleidoscope: you look at one piece of space, and every tiny twist or turn multiplies that into somewhere new—somewhere different. More than enough room for everyone’s version of everyone to fit in somewhere, to be doing different thi see more

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About the Author

Ashley Hay
Photograph by Nigel Beebe

Ashley Hay

Ashley Hay is the internationally acclaimed author of the novels A Hundred Small Lessons, The Body in the Clouds, and The Railwayman’s Wife, which was honored with the Colin Roderick Award by the Foundation for Australian Literary Studies and longlisted for the Miles Franklin Literary Award, the most prestigious literary prize in Australia, among numerous other accolades. She has also written four nonfiction books. She lives in Brisbane, Australia.