Quill & Quire
The opening scene of Stephen Finucan’s powerful debut novel sets the tone for his story: a donkey lies dying in a Naples street in 1944 under the gaze of two-bit thief and failed doctor Aldo Cioffi. Despite the animal’s suffering, all Cioffi can imagine is how someone will eventually come along to carve up the donkey’s carcass for meat. The animal is a symbol of the city itself. The Allies have recently liberated Naples, but in the resulting power vacuum, corruption, looting, and murder run rampant. The darker elements of Naples society are deciding how best to divvy up what the Fascists have left behind. At the centre of Finucan’s book is a Canadian solider, Lieutenant Thomas Greaves. Greaves is on secondment with the British army after having suicidal thoughts. He is in search of redemption after accidentally ordering that ordnance be fired on a civilian target in the town of Agira. When he arrives in Naples, he gets caught in the middle of a scheme by the thieving Cioffi to steal relics from the Archaeological Museum. The Fallen
unleashes a complex tale of naïvety, bravery, and the attempt to wrest order from chaos. It is populated by a motley cast of morally dubious characters: Greaves’ love interest, the ever-suspicious Luisa; her puttana
cousin, Maria; the snivelling and unscrupulous Cioffi; and the vicious gangster Varone. The author of two collections of short fiction, Finucan has written a rare thing in Canadian literature: a novel in which the tension arises from a deep moral core. As the novel builds toward its climax, it takes on a near-Shakespearean quality: the reader wonders which characters will survive to the final page, and which will perish because of the poor choices they’ve made. Finucan’s style is nearly flawless, and his research into 1944 Naples impeccable. There are no rough edges here: every meticulously gathered detail is integrated seamlessly into his excellent prose. The Fallen
will stay with the reader and reward repeated readings.
In The Fallen, Stephen Finucan has recreated 1944 Naples with an historian's fidelity; but Finucan is foremost a gifted storyteller, and it is his depiction of a moral man's plight in an immoral world that makes this novel such a compelling and rewarding experience.
-- Ron Rash, New York Times bestselling author of Serena
" The Fallen is a wonderful tale, a story that could only be set in a city that is an open secret, and that city is Naples . Best of all, it is a novel that knows the difference between putting too much faith in people, or too little." -- Peter Oliva, author of The City of Yes and Drowning in Darkness