Ash Road is a novel with a plot that resembles the wild fire that devours the Australian bush. It moves rapidly and alights in various places. An omniscient narrator introduces and keeps track of a multitude of characters with a point of view that shifts rapidly, often moving several times within a single chapter. In the first chapter, Ivan Southall places three city teenagers in the bush country, a setting created in such minute detail that one can almost feel the hot, arid wind, smell the parched earth, and hear the crackle of the dry brush. Several times, the boys are warned about the danger of fire, but the predictable happens: In the night, a fire is accidentally started and nearly engulfs the boys as they flee for their lives. Realizing their guilt, they head for the home of a school acquaintance on Ash Road to hide out.
In the second chapter, the rest of the characters who live on Ash Road, both young and old, are revealed as they begin the morning of the thirteenth of January. Each family is engaged in the affairs of the day—the Georges are desperately picking berries that are turning to mush in the heat, the Buckinghams are cleaning up from an overflowing bathtub so that they can begin their holiday at the beach, the Fairhalls are punctually eating their six o’clock breakfast, and Grandpa Tanner, who has risen early with a sense of foreboding, comforts little Julie, who has accidentally caused the bathtub to overflow.
(The entire section is 533 words.)