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Falling Angels (2002)

Falling Angels (2002)

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3.53 of 5 Votes: 4
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0452283205 (ISBN13: 9780452283206)

About book Falling Angels (2002)

Gaslit England during the turn of the century. The story starts during the funeral of Queen Victoria (1837-1901) and ends during the funeral of King Edward VII (1901-1910). On their visit to the cemetery to pay respect to their beloved queen, two families meet: the Colemans and the Waterhouses and their relationships are started by the friendship between their two 5-y/o daughters, Maude Coleman and Lavinia Waterhouse. They meet when they are 5 years old and the story ends when they are in the brink of adulthood at the age of 15.One noteworthy aspect of this novel: narrated in first person by each of the major characters without losing the story’s focus and the delivery of its message: that women are not the weaker sex.The plot is thin and the prose is easy yet mesmerizing in its beauty. The frequent reference to cemeteries and death seems to be a reminder to its readers that we are all mortals and all of us will die sooner or later. So, it is but proper that we do what is right and contribute in our own ways to leave this world a better place just like what Kitty Coleman and her support to suffragettes’ dream of having women vote during elections. It also teaches us that we are all human being and we commit mistakes like Jenny Whitby’s pregnancy and Kitty’s affair with Richard and the abortion of their baby. It also shows us that time changes no matter what we do like how the Waterhouses try to hold on to their conventional beliefs compared to the openness of the Colemans to change.The title comes from the angel in the grave of the Waterhouses that falls and breaks into parts in one of the scene. In another, it is Lavinia’s belief, being a more imaginative child, that the falling stars are actually falling angels that are falling because they are going to earth to deliver some messages. The more practical-minded Maude insists that they are meteorites and not angels. These are 5 year old girls in England in 1901 and this is an example of how Chevalier provides the contrast between the two girls.Okay, those really are not new. The novel is cute though. Smooth reading and Chevalier’s attention to details and making use of those details to make her story worth-reading is something that I appreciated. There are still nice novels that do not need to have huge political impact, endorse some earth-shaking philosophy or use big words for me to enjoy. Sometimes, surprises come in small package and this novel for me definitely falls in that category. Not a 1001. Not a 501. No awards from Pulitzer, Booker, etc. No one of my friends here in Goodreads recommended this but definitely a joy, although there are two deaths towards the end, to read.

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.

Do You like book Falling Angels (2002)?

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 mores 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."

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.

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