↠´ Read Ï Falling Angels by Tracy Chevalier Ý This book grabbed me from the very first page Set at the turn of the century, the story takes place amidst the women s suffrage movement Gender issues are also noted, whereas the man was the head of the household and handled the wife.
Each character speaks individually, allowing the reader to listen and decide for themselves where to put the importance of each character The voice of the youngest children is included, as is the maid, cook, grave digger to the gubner Issues of class are also raised in this story from the servants and grave diggers to those of the most forward thinking family.
Victorians were obsessed with death and sex This book opens with the death of Queen Victoria, and ends with the death of King Edward, placing it squarely in Edwardian times, but the Victorian obsessions of death and sex are the two themes of this novel, pushing and pulling each other forward to modern times or back towards the Victorian age.
The book follows two rival families sharing adjacent cemetery plots and who eventually become next door neighbors The two little girls become friends, the fathers play cricket and go to pubs together, but the mothers are constantly comparing themselves to the other in every way.
Through the point of view of all of the different family members, servants, and the gravedigger s son, the nature of the families friendship and rivalry is uncovered This style of shifting 1st person narration was very effective for this book With headings indicate who was writing, it was never confusing, and the plot unfolded itself slowly and beautifully as motivations for past actions others observed became clear.
Death surrounded these families The girls were just old enough to understand death when Queen Victoria died They live next door to the cemetery and visit their family plots They learn how to mourn They live in the shadow of death every day.
Sex was ever present as well the wife that turned her husband away the husband that went to wife swapping parties sexual escapades with men who work at the graveyard, and the consequences of those actions Sexual roles were explored as well, as men are told to handle their woman as one handles a horse, and an accidental encounter with a leading suffragette leads one of the wives deep into that movement.
Eventually, the families become too entangled with each other and with the Suffragette movement so that even the smallest things that these rivals and friends do will have unintended and drastic consequences.
This was an excellent novel.
Once again Tracy Chevalier weaves a tale of everyday life in a different time takes us gently through the customs and s that define a particular point in hostory She also allows her characters to unfold, not from one single point of view or from an omnipotent observer, but each from their own perspective Through her words, they each grow and evolve even the most shallow of characters shows surprising depth The descriptive quality, simple prose, multiple perspectives, all help the story unfold.
This period of English history is not one I know that much about, but I found the customs fascinating My knowledge of the suffragette movement in England was for a long time limited to the mother in Mary Poppins I really feel that I learned a great deal about the customs of the time.
I am perhaps an odd duck, because I really like reading the acknowlegdements and afterwards in books Chevalier made me smile when she wrote in hers The acknowledgements is the only section of a novel that reveals the author s normal voice As a result I wlways read them looking for clues that will shed light on writers and their working methods and lives, as well as their connections with the real world I suspect some of them are written in code Alas, however, there are no hidden meanings in this one just an everyday voice that wants to express gratitude for help in several forms.
Chevalier s second novel shifts from 17th century Delft to London between the deaths of Queen Victoria and Edward VII A lot of the action takes place in a cemetery, much like Highgate, populated by some 30 angel monuments, one of which eventually topples The title presumably also refers to some of the female characters, who are in the process of abandoning the Victorian pedestals that have kept them somewhat set in stone The narrative unfolds in a stream of brief, first person accounts, less like letters in which writers might choose their words less with truth than with ulterior motives in mind and like diary entries supposedly unguarded and spoken from the heart though characters can, and do, lie to themselves Chevalier observes appropriate class distinctions in putting words in lower class mouths e.
, those of cooks, housemaids, the youthful gravedigger, or naughty boy, who becomes chums across class lines with two young girls, habitu s of the cemetery, who serve as chief protagonists from a very early age the precocious Maude and Lavinia, on the other hand, sound little different than their parents.
Maude s mother, the restive Kitty, contrasts notably with Lavinia s mother, Gertrude much mired in Victorian proprieties , not to mention with Kitty s mother in law a thoroughly unlikable version of Maggie Smith from Downton Abbey, without the wit Fallen Angels and its cast perhaps resemble Upstairs, Downstairs of blessed memory than that most recent BBC stately home juggernaut.
One experiences a lot about the Edwardian way of death as all these women and their less visible husbands and paramours confront Britain s post Victorian social growing pains These include women s suffrage, to which Kitty becomes thoroughly committed Chevalier also suggests the sorts of unfortunate consequences that can result when various characters remain so unswervingly faithful to Principle that they forget or ignore lesser concerns Humanity, it seems, is sometime left in this story to those who have little time for and can ill afford such principles.
When I picked the book I was intrigued by the time period and the vehicle of using several characters and their point of view to narrate the story I read Girl with the Pearl Earring which I liked very much and thought the author did a marvelous job researching the period and bringing the time period and the characters were well developed Based on my past experience with this author I thought I d give it a try Unfortunately I was deeply disappointed with this book Various characters in the story told short descriptions of events in the story the descriptions by each character were too short to capture and develop the character and they told so little in each of their sections I was begging for detail and information These brief narrations by the speaker causes the character to be undeveloped, flat, uninteresting and as a reader I was not able to get very involved with the character I did not find that each character had their own distinctive voice such that without looking at the title of who was speaking I could immediately tell who was speaking In fact when the young girls were five they were speaking and thinking about things much too adult and sophisticated for their age so their voices felt believable For most of the beginning of the book the comings and goings and discussions focused around a cemetery boring I was than half way through the book before I saw a glimmer of a plot At first I thought the plot would center on turn of the century women and unhappy marriage, affairs, unwanted pregnancy, finding a soul mate but that never really developed As the plot switches away onto something else women s rights in turn of the century London, women suffragettes I thought, at last here is the real plot but that was never really developed either So much could have been done to describe the women s suffragette movement, the hardships, the imprisonment of the women and the frustration embarrassment and misunderstanding on the part of the men and society I imagine the author did extensive research on the era but that never came out in the story The rich details, descriptions, of the times and the deep feelings, frustrations, fears and concerns of the characters were not brought out I found the ending came abruptly but I guess after wondering all over the place the author had to finally just stop Overall this book was a big disappointment but I kept reading to the end to see why this book was published I thought surely it must have something meaningful to contribute.
I found this book to be initially better than the infuriating Girl with a Pearl Earring , maybe because it tried to present the story from different points of view, but then I got angry because the promise was totally unfulfilled The characters were unbelievable and flat, as if written with some sort of manual in hand There were two girls who became friends despite the differences between their families and personalities, but nothing came out of it, because simply labeling one girl as shallow pretty and the other as intelligent and plain couldn t make for developing their characters Actually I liked the stupid and pretty Lavinia better, she was at least some fun Maude I can t say anything about for the life of me, and she was the stupider one, what with her being so oblivious about Jenny the servant or Simon or her mum She only cared about herself The mothers, the grandmother, the fathers were even worse, one dimensional tools good only for thinking textbook thoughts about the spirit of the day , politics, suffrage and such no character development, no independent thought, just timid agreement to be obvious puppets of the author.
The story was so predictable it was sad Of course something bad was going to happen during the suffrage rally Of course the poor boy would fall in love with rich ladies, and think about them lots of gentle stuff Of course the independent woman would neglect her daughter Of course all the internal monologues would consist entirely of hypocritical exclamations, declarations and declamations, what with all these persons being, y know, Victorians and stuff.
So why 2 stars Because it was a fast read and I like POV changes But grrr.
Set In London At The Turn Of The Last Century, Falling Angels Is A Masterful, Moving, And Beautifully Written Novel From The Author The Orlando Sentinel Called As Attentive To The Details Of Daily Living As Jane Austen And Edith Wharton Ever Were A Fashionable London Cemetery, January Two Graves Stand Side By Side, One Decorated With An Oversize Classical Urn, The Other With A Sentimental Marble Angel Two Families, Visiting Their Respective Graves On The Day After Queen Victoria S Death, Teeter On The Brink Of A New Era The Colemans And The Waterhouses Are Divided By Social Class As Well As Taste They Would Certainly Not Have Become Acquainted Had Not Their Two Girls, Meeting Behind The Tombstones, Become Best Friends And, Even Unsuitably, Become Involved With The Gravedigger S Muddy SonAs The Girls Grow Up, As The New King Changes Social Customs, As A New, Forward Thinking Era Takes Wing, The Lives And Fortunes Of The Two Families Become And Closely Intertwined Neighbors In Life As Well As DeathAgainst A Gas Lit Backdrop Of Social And Political History, Tracy Chevalier Explores The Prejudices And Flaws Of A Changing Time A Novel That Is At Once Elegant, Daring, original, And Compelling, Falling Angeles Is A Splendid Follow Up To The Book The New York Times Called Marvelously Evocative And The Wall Street Journal Deemed Triumphant This takes place in Edwardian London, beginning the day after Victoria s death in 1901 and ending with the death of Edward VII in 1910 It concerns how the turn of the 20th Century affects two neighboring families, one of which hearkens back to the Victorian Era and one of which looks ahead to a new time It especially concerns the incredibly stifling lives of women at the time The mother in the forward family becomes a suffragette, pushing them forward perhaps a bit faster than they would wish to go The climactic moment is a fictional account of a real event of the time, a huge demonstration demanding votes for women It has tragic results for both families the young girls of each family are especially affected The novel is told in Spoon River Anthology style, with different characters taking the narrative voice of succeeding chapters, as if the reader were glimpsing into their personal journals The differing reactions of one character to events deepen your understanding of the character who spoke before, and you piece out the story by taking in all the characters There was an Upstairs, Downstairs quality as well because she gives a voice to everyone from the dictatorial grandmother to the poor upstairs maid to the barefoot boy who digs graves It was a bit of a depressing book, but oddly uplifting when you finished seeing the whole picture I enjoyed the author s Girl with the Pearl Earring, and I enjoyed this one as well even though it was so different.
Just as a side note it is incredible to me when I think of it that my own grandmothers were not allowed to vote until well after they became mothers God bless those suffragettes.
This book was a bad try at writing dark.
Well all the books from this author are that,but still I had a real problem whit the destiny of the main character and her mother.
At least she was the main character to me.
All the others were so horrible you wanted to beat them whit a stick So,the mother dies.
And the girl does not get the boy she wants because of her winy bratty friend that indirectly messed up her and her mothers life.
I just have enough of injustice to look at in real life.
Why read about shallow evil people that tend to make life miserable for the marginally good ones I gave it the second star because it was not badly written when it comes to form.
Just when we consider the plot.