28 June 2009

Review: FALLING ANGELS by Tracy Chevalier *****

"This is a sumptuous new look for the bestselling author of "Girl with a Pearl Earring". 1901 was the year of Queen Victoria's death. The two graves stood next to each other, both beautifully decorated. One had a large urn - some might say ridiculously large - and the other, almost leaning over the first, an angel - some might say overly sentimental. The two families visiting the cemetery to view their respective neighbouring graves were divided even more by social class than by taste. They would certainly never have become acquainted had not their two girls, meeting behind the tombstones, become best friends. And furthermore - and even more unsuitably - become involved in the life of the gravedigger's son. As the girls grow up, as the century wears on, as the new era and the new King change social customs, the lives and fortunes of the Colemans and the Waterhouses become more and more closely intertwined - neighbours in life as well as death."

First of all, I wonder why the original plot summary for this book is so terribly vague?! Yes, it's not easy to sum it up properly as it's quite complex, but I truly wonder why there is absolutely no mention of the suffragettes, which play a very important role in this novel? It's like the publishers are afraid mentioning them would scare readers away ... Well, I plan to make it well clear what this novel is about, hehe.


There are so many things that I absolutely loved loved loved about this book! Namely, it is set in a historical period that I find very fascinating, the beginning of the 20th century. Not only that, but it also features suffragetts, whom I also admire. Furthermore, even though this novel is told from a lot of different perspecitves and jumps years ahead, it all works beautifully and makes the story complete.

The characters/narrators were very different (as far as gender, age, class and viewpoint goes) and I love how the author managed to capture that in their narrative. The novel features two very different families: the Waterhouses are very traditional whereas the Colemans are quite progressive (especially Kitty), which I think nicely shows how the times were slowey changing then.

I don't think there is a single bad thing I could say about this book because it is truly fantastic. I thought that the characters were very well developed and they changed quite a lot and accordingly, the relationships between the characters and friendships were well depicted, there was enough action, the subject matter was very interesting, the time period was well researched, the book was well written etc.

Reading this novel also really made me want to visit the Highgate Cemetery in London because most of the novel takes place there (Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger will be set there as well so I'm quite excited about that!). Usually, I tend to stay faaar away from cemeteries, but judging by the book and pictures online, Highgate seems really fascinating and I must visit it asap!!!

The novel takes place between 1901 and 1910, but Tracy Chevalier mentioned that she intended to write it from 1901 to 1918 and that she might write a sequel. That would be fantastic - I'm dying to know what the characters in this book were up to in the next 10 years so fingers crossed!

As I said, this book is quite complexed (easy to read though) and there's a lot that could be discussed and I could talk about it for hours, but in short: it's absolutely brilliant and I cannot recommend it enough!

ps: I admit that this is the first book I've read by Chevalier (I also had the honour and the privilege to translate it into my mother tongue last year - I've read it four times so I can still remember it very well), but definitely not the last! Shortly after that, I also read Virgin Blue, which I enjoyed muchly as well, and bought The Girl with the Pearl Earring, which I have yet to read. I'm also very, very excited about her upcoming novel Remarkable Creatures, which seems rather promising!


Dot said...

I have this on my TBR pile, great review!

bookalicious said...

Thanks, I look forward to reading your review too once you get round to it. Oh, it's such a fantastic book, I just can't praise it enough!

Post a Comment