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Fallen Skies [Paperback]

Philippa Gregory
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Explore More from Philippa Gregory
Philippa Gregory's latest book, The King's Curse, is the 6th novel in her series, The Cousins' War. Explore more from the #1 best-selling author of books such as The Other Boleyn Girl and The White Queen. Learn more.
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Book Description

Dec 2 2008
Can a family's mannered traditions and cool emotions erase the horrors of war from a young couple's past?

Now back in print from New York Times bestselling author Philippa Gregory, Fallen Skies takes readers to post-World War I England in a suspenseful story about the marriage of a wealthy war hero and an aspiring singer he barely knows.

Lily Valance is determined to forget the horrors of the war by throwing herself into the decadent pleasures of the 1920s and pursuing her career as a music hall singer. When she meets Captain Stephen Winters, a decorated veteran, she's immediately drawn to his wealth and status. And Stephen, burdened by his guilt over surviving the Flanders battlefields where so many soldiers perished, sees the possibility of forgetting his anguish in Lily, but his family does not approve.

Lily marries Stephen, only to discover that his family's façade of respectability conceals a terrifying combination of repression, jealousy and violence. When Stephen's terrors merge dangerously close with reality, the truth of what took place in the mud and darkness brings him and all who love him to a terrible reckoning.

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Review

Praise for 'Fallen Skies': 'Superbly crafted...a fine book.' Daily Mail 'Round of applause.' Frank Delaney, Sunday Times Praise for Philppa Gregory: 'Written from instinct, not out of calculation, and it shows.' Peter Ackroyd, The Times --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Philippa Gregory is the author of several bestselling novels, including The Other Boleyn Girl, and is a recognized authority on women’s history. Her Cousins’ War novels are the basis for the critically acclaimed Starz miniseries The White Queen. She studied history at the University of Sussex and received a PhD from the University of Edinburgh. She welcomes visitors to her website, PhilippaGregory.com.

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Most helpful customer reviews
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
It started off slow and boring, which is unusual for this author. Right now, I can hardly remember what it was about. I have had most of her books about Kings and Queens, and have read them multiple times and will continue to do so for as long as I can see.
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Amazon.com: 3.9 out of 5 stars  55 reviews
48 of 52 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Help me. It's what I married you for." Nov. 21 2008
By Luan Gaines - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Gregory is a master story-teller, this engaging novel set in 1920's England shortly after the end of World War I. Stephen Winters is a medaled officer, returned to the bosom of his wealthy family, expected to step into the empty shoes of his brother Christopher, who was killed in the war. Stephen has his own war stories, but never speaks of them, except to his batman and chauffeur, Coventry, his mute companion. Profoundly damaged by his war experiences, the young Winters' heir hides the depths of his emotional wounds, his rages rare but violent. The family home is quiet as the grave, Stephen's father, Rory, felled by a stroke after Christopher's death, his luminous dark eyes unable to communicate from a twisted face and worthless body. Muriel Winters cannot find rapport with her son, the unsaid between them more powerful than any conversation and her nagging guilt at having goaded her second-born into a war that annihilated his already cloudy soul.

Singer Lily Valance, only seventeen, is a refreshing antidote to the nightmares that have haunted Stephen since his return. Even the knowledge that she is a chorus girl is assuaged by the purity of her lovely voice and the diligence of a mother who protects her innocent daughter from male admirers. As soon as he sees Lily perform, Stephen knows she is the antidote to his fury and discontent, that Lily will heal the wounds of the past. On the cusp of a successful career, thanks to the efforts of music director and friend, Charlie Smith, Lily's path to success is clear. Suddenly Stephen is everywhere pressing his suit, shadowing Lily's every move. Intimidated by his aggressive courtship, Lily turns to Charlie, who can never make her his wife. But fate intervenes and Lily is forced into life-changing decisions in the midst of unfathomable grief.

And there is Stephen, soft-spoken, iron-willed, offering his protection and love. Lily marries her ardent suitor, thrust into a world of strict proprieties, a singing career suddenly inappropriate. And Stephen's panacea is short-lived as reality intrudes on fantasy. As a rigid mother-in-law, compassionate but helpless father-in-law and Stephen's man, the mute Coventry, struggle to adapt to the high spirits of Lily's youthful enthusiasm, the fragile hopes she has for her marriage are exposed as a sham. Lily learns first-hand the terrible cost of war, her marriage battered by upheaval and violence as a helpless Charlie watches from the outside. From love to madness, joy to despair, Gregory's characters grapple with their situations, tentative alliances, demons revealed in a tragic denouement that shatters the night. Gregory writes with a rhythm and style all her own, high drama and dense prose that wounds and expunges, human failings stripped of pretense one by one. But Lily is a survivor, a girl grown to womanhood in the harsh landscape of a deeply troubled marriage: "We've got to live no matter how many skies have fallen" (DH Lawrence). Luan Gaines/2008.
25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars WORLD WAR I VETS VIVIDLY PORTRAYED Oct. 27 2000
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I discovered Philippa Gregory within the last year and have now read five of her books, Fallen Skies being the most recent. As always, she has created multi-dimensional characters where it's possible to even feel some sympathy for the "villain" of the piece. The heroine of the book, Lily Vallance, is very much a product of her times when roles for women were quite restrictive. Gregory does a great job of portraying just how much power husbands had over their wives in the early part of the last century. Her husband, World War I vet, Stephen Winters, is a tragic figure although to state he was purely a product of the horrors of the war may not be quite true. His own upbringing and profound sibling rivalry also had to have played a part in the man he became in the trenches of Belgium.
The supporting characters of Charlie, Lily's true love, Muriel, Stephen's mother and Coventry, Stephen's chauffeur/best friend are wonderfully written. I especially enjoyed Gregory's constant reference to the food that "Cook" served the family during the rigidly proscribed meal times. She ably described the societal customs of the upper middle class and how Lily constantly chafed at them.
This is not a romance novel, by any means, but a fascinating story of what happened to the generation of men who fought in World War I and the impact of this on those left on the home front.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Slow-moving, but intense Oct. 3 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This book starts out strong, then crawls, gets exciting at about 3/4 of the way through, but leaves many unanswered questions. You can't help but feel sympathy for the main character, Lily, who is married to a man she doesn't love and whose husband's family adheres to the strict formality of upper-class England. Nothing unseeming should ever occur in their household. Ironically, what happens between Lily and her husband is enough to make even the lowliest of English families cringe, if only they knew. The strict upper-class attitudes of the family should be reminiscent of what it must be like for young, innocent girls who marry into certain royal families and are forced to live with the consequences. Overall, several of the characters could have been taken in a much different direction toward the end of the story, if only to give Lily more sympathy and friends. It might also have resolved a few more issues, such as what happens between Lily and her true love, Charlie. This book needs a more satisfying ending!!
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Something different from this author June 3 2009
By Carol Kasper Winet - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
The author is well-known for her historical novels about royal personages, but this book, first published in 1993 and re-issued in 2008, is among her best and is timely in this era of war. It is set in the immediate aftermath of World War I in England. A veteran, a former officer, from an upper-class family is haunted by war nightmares. He falls in love with a pretty, very young music-hall performer, seeing in her naivete the pre-war innocence he misses. The impoverished girl reluctantly marries her rich swain. Gradually, we realize that he suffers secretly from what is now called "Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder" and, furthermore, he was not an emotionally-steady person when he went to war. Indeed, the war gave him the opportunity to work off his underlying anger at being the less-beloved of two sons by killing "the enemy". I can see why some audiences, especially the British, may not have taken to a book that says that some "heroes" were nothing of the kind. Current readers know that atrocities are not committed only by the other side; we may be shocked and saddened but we are no longer surprised. The fast-moving, dramatic plot deals with the young wife's difficult chore of dealing with her increasingly-demented husband.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tragic and Compelling Historical Fiction Oct. 4 2009
By H. Mazzeo - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This is a superb historical novel with tragic themes. Phillipa Gregory demonstrates the she can craft such a great story that takes place in the past century. (This book was initially released in 1993. Due to Gregory's popularity, it has been reissued.)

The story focuses on the dysfunctional marriage of Lily Valance and Captain Stephen Winters. Stephen was traumatized by his service during World War I. He is clearly suffering from PTSD and other issues. Yet he refuses treatment of any kind and is plagued by nightmares. Lily marries him and she is unaware of his condition until their honeymoon.

Before she met Stephen, Lily was an up and coming singer and chorus girl. Due to personal tragedy, Lily ends up marrying Stephen to survive. As she is from the working class and the Winters family is upper class, conflicts naturally occur. Compounded with Stephen's psychological problems and misogynist attitudes and Lily's inexperience, the marriage is immediately plagued by problems. There are continual themes of marital rape. While Gregory is not graphic in her depictions, it is still distressing material.

Gregory excels at describing Stephen's remembrances of the war. She also gets into the head of all her characters. The reader understands what makes each character tick. Overall, this book is an indictment of the attitudes of the upper class. When Stephen is observing his wife while she changes their son's diaper, the present day reader understand how warped his sensibilities have become.

"Stephen gazed at the two of them in a sort of horror: at his son's innocent babyish maleness, and at Lily's confident handle of him. As if she were some kind of red-handed nurse, as if she were not a lady at all. Stephen was appalled that Lily should lower herself to be so intimate with the child. It was worse than servitude, what she chose to do. It was disgraceful that she should do it and feel no shame at being watched."

As Lily continues to assert herself, Stephen's mental health and behavior declines. It is inevitable that this marriage will end in tragedy. Gregory keeps us guessing as to who will be harmed the most. The last few chapters kept the tension building beautifully. I highly recommend this book to historical fiction and Phillipa Gregory fans even though it is very dark material.
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