A Response to The Waves Burn Bright

Taking on the task of writing about Piper Alpha was daunting, and not one I took lightly. One of my biggest fears was of offending or upsetting survivors and the families of those who died in the disaster. Before the manuscript for The Waves Burn Bright went to printing, I wanted to put it before people who had a direct connection to Piper Alpha to gauge reactions, to check for anything inadvertently offensive, insensitive, misleading or inaccurate while the manuscript could still be changed.

Writer Alison Miller kindly agreed to read it. Alison’s brother was one of those lost on Piper Alpha. Below is an extract of her response to the book, shared with her permission:

The Waves Burn Bright

With the huge smouldering outline of the ruined Piper Alpha oil platform looming over this novel, it was difficult terrain for a writer to negotiate, not least because many of the stories of real survivors are already in the public domain. We know that getting off the rig alive is not the end of the story. The depiction of Marcus, a fictional survivor, unravelling through post traumatic stress is both moving and convincing.

This is a novel with Piper Alpha at the fire-breathing core of it, the seismic event round which the characters have to shape their lives and relationships. The story of Marcus and his daughter Carrie depicts the impossible strain placed on their relationship by the fallout from that night.

But a fictional story about family breakdown that simply took Piper Alpha as its backdrop would have been highly suspect and possibly exploitative. This book is neither. I cared about the characters, entered their world, found myself caught up in their estrangements, desperately wanting positive outcomes. Maloney has a light touch with the telling detail that deepens our understanding of character and place. The switching of the narrative back and fore in time is deftly managed and adds to the suspense, raising and dashing and raising hopes for reconciliation.

Carrie’s fascination with volcanoes is, at a mundane level, a believable reason for her career choice, at the same time suggesting the bubbling magma that threatens to rupture the emotional faultline between father and daughter. The science sets the small/large events in human life against the vast backdrop of time and space.

This novel deserves a wide readership. It will resonate with anyone who remembers the night of Piper Alpha; with anyone suffering PTSD, for any reason; with those trying to love them and live with them; with those trying to treat them; and with those more generally interested in understanding this area of human experience. It is also simply a compelling and highly engaging story, told with insight and compassion.

– Alison Miller, author of Demo.

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