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5.0 out of 5 stars The best of the best of the best.
Despite its familiar theme, FALLING ANGELS is a book about doing what is right and morally correct versus doing what truly makes one happy. The narrative moves forward, always in the first person, from the mouth of each major protagonist who commits his or her own brand of "against the grain" behavior and/or scandal. FALLING ANGELS seems to suggest that moral...
Published on July 5 2005 by Sharon Parker

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3.0 out of 5 stars A preview of better things to come
I was very relieved to find out that "The Virgin Blue" was written before "Girl With a Pearl Earring," and "Falling Angels." "The Virgin Blue" is wildly uneven, not merely because the writing is split between two different eras, the modern era of Ella Turner and the Sixteenth Century world of Isabelle Tournier.
The more compelling story, by far, centers on Isabelle...
Published on July 31 2003 by Chris Vallancourt


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5.0 out of 5 stars The best of the best of the best., July 5 2005
This review is from: Falling Angels: A Novel (Paperback)
Despite its familiar theme, FALLING ANGELS is a book about doing what is right and morally correct versus doing what truly makes one happy. The narrative moves forward, always in the first person, from the mouth of each major protagonist who commits his or her own brand of "against the grain" behavior and/or scandal. FALLING ANGELS seems to suggest that moral structure are inventions of man, the things that keep us in order. And simply put, such inventions are not natural. The better "angels" of our nature strive to do what is deemed correct, because this is the way we are "brought up." Yet the psychological, physiological and genetic codes of humans are not abstract. They are in constant conflict with moral structure. If we fail to recognize this, we let society cast us as "failures," even if we aren't. Chevalier doesn't preach, and the grisly details of the scandalous portions of her story take place mostly "off camera," vividly residing in the imaginations of the reader. I like this. But the true mastery of "Falling Angels" is the abrupt change of pace that occupies the last third of her novel, a portion which carries the momentum of a locomotive. A cast of thousands, mostly nameless, gather for a pivotal event that proves devastating. Chevalier delivers a big "set piece" filled with thousands of activities going on at once -- and the surprise is -- even though they're told from different points of view, the reader is never confused. If you're looking for another great book to read, might I suggest the ever-popular CHILDREN'S CORNER by Jackson McCrae? It's funny, horrifying, jaw-dropping, heart-warming, exotic, shocking, disturbing, and a rollercoaster of a ride.
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4.0 out of 5 stars An bit of an Academic Response, Sept. 14 2004
By 
Sarah Hamilton (Edmonton, AB) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Falling Angels: A Novel (Paperback)
The first drawback of anything Chevalier writes is that her writing skills are good. Not excellent, just satisfactory. What makes up for this ,however, is her methodical research and her ability to draw you into the world of Edwardian London. Other reviewers are saying "she discounts the suffrage movement" and "puts too much emphasis on the morbid", which are valid criticism, but I believe they are also a bit shallow, from my experience in this field of study (and I have lots of practical experience in this field of study), Chevalier immerses you in this world. The suffragettes are incredibly important to us now, but back in 1905, the criticisms of their political activity was harsh. Women were told "you can vote...when your work is done", and that they'd drop the issue as soon as they go bored with it. And its should be noted the Victorians were OBSESSED with protocol. Chevalier does a marvelous job immersing you in her subjective world...if you are looking for an objective account, I suggest you buy a history book instead. For those of you historiophiles who enjoy a well researched historical fiction, pick up this book.
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1.0 out of 5 stars A Different Drummer, June 29 2004
By 
HeyJudy "heyjudy" (East Hampton, NY USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Falling Angels: A Novel (Paperback)
As far as FALLING ANGELS goes, I obviously am very much at odds with the majority of this website's reader-reviewers: I hated this book! I thought that it was a cheat, on many levels.
First of all, it was short. It only took me about an hour to read.
For the most part, it was a book about the stylized and self-conscious Victorian ritual of mourning among the upper class English; and the better part of the book was nothing more than a detailed report on cemetery and crypt design, on mourning clothes and mourning jewelry and mourning stationery and mourning time schedules.
Author Tracy Chevalier uses the term "mute" in the context of mourners with no further explanation. Were mutes, then, paid mourners who filled out a funeral, and kept silent during the service?
Her greatest insult, however, was to the women's suffrage movement. According to her telling, the suffragettes were little more than a group of bored women, slightly hysterical, who viewed their political goals as a silly game. I have read many books on the women's suffrage movement and I never have come across this interpretation anywhere else. She has slandered a movement that moved the cause of women into the 20th century.
I didn't care for Chevalier's earlier fiction, GIRL IN HYACINTH BLUE--I didn't even like the movie it was made into, which bombed at the box office. I far preferred the competing novel, GIRL WITH PEARL EARRING, which was published at that same time as BLUE.
I will not be reading Chevalier's future work.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Okay, so we all like a bit of morbid drama now and then...., June 15 2004
By 
Jennifer R. Wright (Texas) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Falling Angels: A Novel (Paperback)
Tracy Chevalier plays upon wonderful funereal imagery to depict a turn of the century Madame Bovary who is destined to ruin herself (and everyone around her)in her search for "self". This novel contrasts a status quo married family with the hopeless Kitty, a woman searching for something more while she already possesses more than she can appreciate in her own family.
Kitty and her family are much like Flaubert's Charles and Emma Bovary in contrast to neighbors M. Homais and family. This is a great psychological novel about finding balance. I was as mad at Kitty as I was at Emma Bovary and Anna Karennina for not waking up and realizing what a nice child she had, what a patient husband (if not passionate), what a nice house!
This novel is:
+High on sublime imagery that works exceptionally well
+Quick and tragic
+Faulknerian in its use of multiple veiwpoints (very nice touch for a turn of the century novel)
+Awesome in character development--I love little Simon just like I loved Victor Hugo's gamin,Gavroche.
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5.0 out of 5 stars I agree with another reviewer, June 5 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: Falling Angels: A Novel (Paperback)
I agree with the previous reviewer in that Chevalier is one of the few authors whose books I'll pick up, just because her name is on the cover. I've read all of hers, and while "Girl with a Pearl Earring" is top on my list, "Falling Angels" is second. But I can understand some people's hesitation, especially if they got half-way through this excellent read, for while the first half is gentle and warm, the story turns dark. But then, the essence of drama is conflict, right? And we can't expect Chevalier to always do the same thing. The fact that she's written as many "different" books as she has is testament to her talent.
But aside from her name and excellent premises, the best thing about Ms. C. is her writing style. It flows like water, effortlessly, like something written by McCrae (think "Bark of the Dogwood" or possibly some of Min's novels.) By all means, read this book, but don't pass up "Girl with A Pearl Earring" as it is her best effort.
Also recommended: "Girl With a Pearl Earring," Empress Orchid, "Bark of the Dogwood.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Personal Journal Reveals Hushed Secrets / Private Thoughts, May 24 2004
By 
This review is from: Falling Angels: A Novel (Paperback)
The popularity of "Girl with a Pearl Earring" (book and film), plus a review of *this* book by an acquaintance, convinced me, "read this book" ... read anything by this author. From the first page to the last, this book held my attention. I read it in one sitting, cover to cover, over several hours, unable to put it down.
I was intrigued by the first entry in the book ... a rather risque confession by Kitty Coleman, that she had 'swapped husbands' at a New Year's Eve party, to show she was 'open-minded'. Furthermore, she questions her up-bringing, deemed "too much education for a woman" by some, during the Victorian era. It dawns on Kitty that her dissatisfaction with her marriage and life in general has a lot to do with inability to communicate with her husband on things that are *most* important to her. While she has a good life by the standards of the times, she is restless and dissatisfied -- she is looking for an outlet. Right from the start, this novel hooks the reader. It is from this major personal conflict that many "secret" events unfold, which later affect the lives of most of the characters in the book. This reader gives high praise for the subject matter and creartive writing ability of the author. The setting alone, where major events occur, unfold, is outstanding -- a graveyard, where two eleven year olds first meet and become "best friends". The technique of writing from the viewpoint of the first person, through the eyes of the person experiencing the event or recalling how they felt at the time, is perfect. It is unique, creative and highly effective for the subject and the era in which the events occured.
Another outstanding feature of this book, is how the two families who are the main characters meet ... they both have graves in a famous cemetery, that are next to each other. Each makes a negative judgement about the selection of gravestone marker for their loved one ... this is so human, so real, such a fascinating a way to begin a story. After the two eleven year old girls become 'best friends', they befriend the grave-digger's son, Simon, who shows the girls the different 'angel' grave markers throughout the cemetery. The girls often come to visit the cemetery, view the angel markers and speak with Simon. They accompany the maid, who is sent on errands to town. However, besides errands, the maid has a personal agenda, she is having a romantic affair with one of the gravdiggers. We also learn, later, that Mrs. Kitty Coleman is also meeting someone at the cemetery. She has developed an intellectual relationship with Mr. John Jackson, the manager of the graveyard. This intellectual relationship gradually develops into a physical romantic affair. Along the way, Kitty discovers a "cause" which consumes much of her energy, the suffragettes. She dedicatea her time and energy to this one means of "freeing up women" from the limitations imposed by society ... this cause .... and her romance with Mr. John Jackson, eventually becomes her undoing. The book is worth reading to discover the means by which this occurs ...
This one event has a major impact on the lives of most of the characters who provide journal entries in this book. One major life event in one family, leads to another totally unexpected crisis, that impacts the second family featured in the book, the Waterhouse family. The manner in which the author weaves the cemetery into the story ... from the highly worth the read. Learning how the lives of these two families intertwine, as they become "backyard neighbors" is fascinating. Most highly recommended. Erika Borsos (erikab93)
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5.0 out of 5 stars I agree, April 27 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: Falling Angels: A Novel (Paperback)
I agree with the previous reviewer in that Chevalier is one of the few authors whose books I'll pick up, just because her name is on the cover. I've read all of hers, and while "Girl with a Pearl Earring" is top on my list, "Falling Angels" is second. But I can understand some people's hesitation, especially if they got half-way through this excellent read, for while the first half is gentle and warm, the story turns dark. But then, the essence of drama is conflict, right? And we can't expect Chevalier to always do the same thing. The fact that she's written as many "different" books as she has is testament to her talent.
But aside from her name and excellent premises, the best thing about Ms. C. is her writing style. It flows like water, effortlessly, like something written by McCrae (think "Bark of the Dogwood" or possibly some of Min's novels.) By all means, read this book, but don't pass up "Girl with A Pearl Earring" as it is her best effort.
Also recommended: "Girl With a Pearl Earring," Empress Orchid, "Bark of the Dogwood.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing Study of Women and Their Times, Feb. 28 2004
By 
B. McEwan "yellokat" (Brooklyn, NY USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Falling Angels: A Novel (Paperback)
I like novels set in Victorian England as well as those with female heros, and so was drawn to Falling Angels right away, simply because of its time and place. But the other draw was the primary setting for most of the action, which is a large cemetery in a neighborhood of well-to-do middle class homes. I have always enjoyed cemeteries (so long as I'm not mourning someone who is buried there) as interesting vehicles for gaining an understanding of social history and for feeling my humanness. Some tombstone incriptions amaze me with their heartfelt honesty, and because the emotions expressed are so congruent with my own -- even when the person in question died decades ago. It makes me realize that there really isn't much difference between us in the end. And that is, I believe, the main appeal of this novel. All things happen in the fullness of time -- the tragic, the beloved, and the blessed. And the core substance of life doesn't really change much from era to era.
I also enjoyed reading about the sexual byplay between the adult women characters, their husbands and the other men they meet. While some of the action seems to be "typically" Victorian, other scenes are surprising for the time. For instance, there are actually incidents of spouse swapping (most certainly called "wife swapping" at the time), which surprised me given that I have come to think of the Victorians as sexual prudes. And, of course, there is the obligatory punishment for the woman (Kitty Coleman) who steps out of the traditional role to grab a moment of joy for herself.
Also alluring are the characterizations of the daughters -- Lavinia, who seems true to the spirit of the era and is, in other words, the sort of Victorian lady who faints and fumes and, generally, portrays herself as the fair flower of womanhood; her younger sister Ivy May, who is quiet and the "nice girl" who finishes last in the end (literally); and Maude, the girl who is too smart for her time and also ends up paying a price. And, while Maude and Ivy May pay obvious prices, the cost to Lavinia of languishing in her socially accpetable role is also quite high. The three girls challenge readers -- female readers anyway -- to place themselves in their shoes and think about the choices that we would make, given the social constraints and rewards of the time.
Overall, this is a thought provoking book that encourages the reader to reflect on her/his humanity and the ways that all of us are connected, now and forever.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Is This a Family Novel or a Literary Experiment, Feb. 4 2004
This review is from: Falling Angels: A Novel (Paperback)
I really didn't like GIRL WITH A PEARL EARRING, but I thought I'd try another Tracy Chevalier book and, since I love reading books set in both Victorian and Edwardian England, FALLING ANGELS seemed perfect.

On the morning following the death of Queen Victoria, intelligent but plain Maude Coleman meets beautiful but shallow Lavinia Waterhouse at the cemetery where both of their families have plots. The five year old girls become fast friends and their lives become intertwined unto death.

FALLING ANGELS is quite different from GIRL WITH A PEARL EARRING in more ways than the fact that it does not explore the world of art. Where GIRL WITH A PEARL EARRING had only one narrator, Griet, FALLING ANGELS has several and they take turns telling their stories in short, choppy chapters. One of the ways in which both books are similar is the fact that Chevalier never goes inside the mind of her characters...she fails to gives us her characters thoughts, and this, I think, is a very grave mistake. It distanced me from Griet and it distanced me from both Maude and Lavinia and the other characters that populate the pages of FALLING ANGELS.

It's puzzling to me as to why Chevalier would write so many interior monologues yet fail to let even one character reveal his or her thoughts or emotions. Instead of using the third person to help us "know" each character, Chevalier uses it to give us expository information...something that, to me, smacks of the work of an amateur, not a woman who's just written her third novel. It might have been an experimental device, but if it were, I think it's an experiment in technique that failed.

In addition to the above, the first half of the book, which seems to be developing into a family drama simply doesn't coalesce with the second half, where it veers off into something quite different. It seemed as if Chevalier were trying to weave disparate stories from loosely connected characters into one lovely tapestry of a book, but the tapestry just never came together and simply unraveled, instead.

Like GIRL WITH A PEARL EARRING, FALLING ANGELS is rich in description, something that seems to be Chevalier's forte and something I would expect, given the fact that she was, for many years a reference book editor. In GIRL WITH A PEARL EARRING we were treated to a tour of Delft during Vermeer's lifetime. In FALLING ANGELS, we're given a guide to Edwardian England. I liked the description in both books, but lovely description doesn't make a compelling story.

I am going to give Chevalier yet a third chance, something I rarely do with any author. I've recently purchased her latest book, THE LADY AND THE UNICORN. The beautiful tapestries at the Musee National du Moyen Age de Cluny in Paris are among my favorite "artistic treasures," so I really couldn't resist a book woven around them. I just hope Chevalier gives us richer characterizations than she did in FALLING ANGELS.

I would recommend this book only to people so in love with Edwardian England that they simply can't get their fill.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Anglophile female study in grave setting, Dec 12 2003
By 
dikybabe "admeyer" (Houston, TX United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Falling Angels: A Novel (Paperback)
I was fascinated by this book. Chevalier's talent at presenting a story line via first person narratives is showcased here with turn of the twentieth century London as its base. The characters who tell us their stories are sectioned into the years 1901-1910, from the mourning of Queen Victoria to the mourning of King Edward. And their mostly upper middle class status sets the tone, a little rivalry between families whose grave sites end up side by side. Interestingly enough, the daughters of these two couples, the Waterhouses and the Colemans, become true friends. And from their day of first meeting as they gather in the cemetery in remembrance of Victoria, the girls, quite opposite in nature, are drawn to one another, despite their mothers' obvious distance.
The whole plot centers on the trips Maude and Lavinia (Livy) and her little sister Ivy May make to the cemetery. It is their center of recreation. And it is there that Jenny, the Coleman maid who escorts them on their excursions, becomes entangled in a life-changing affair, while Maude and Livy become best friends of a most unlikely mate close to their age, Simon Field, the gravedigger's son. Simon's class rank is so far below that of the girls, of whom Maude's family ranks higher than Livy's, yet he is the best pal of these young girls. And it is Simon who will go to heroic measures to assist the girls in their hour of greatest need.
The psuedo liberation of the upper class' sexual mores is an underlying theme in Kitty Coleman's life. And it is Kitty who becomes embroiled in the Suffragette movement of upper class women, adding color and suspense to the plot.
Each voice of the various characters rings true to the person speaking, balancing the points of view of several generations and class ranks starting with the very strict and Victorian rank of Mother Edith Coleman, who wishes to control the behavior of her son's wife as well as his household. The spoiled and seemingly lazy Kitty contrasts dramatically with the straight laced Gertrude Waterhouse, who finds Kitty's rank a point of competition, yet who comes to truly mother Kitty's only child, Maude. For Gertrude is the ultimate modern housewife and mother. And each woman's "At Home" days conveniently conflict with one another, therefore eclipsing their chance at real socialization. On the other hand, with cricket as the draw, their husbands, Albert and Richard, strike up a cursory friendship that deepens with time.
As Maude and Livy age, they face the erosion of Maude's family, although when real tragedy strikes they experience a time of growing apart as they mature.
The servant class spokesladies of the Coleman cook, Mrs. Baker, and the housemaid, Jenny Whitby, flesh out the Edwardian times and the life of an upstairs/downstairs relationship.
Typical to Chevalier's writing in her other novels, she masterfully builds the tension and suspense that makes the reader want to keep going. Therefore, this is an easy, fast read. And I do recommend it, particularly if you like to feel a part of a plot with characters who speak directly to you.
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Falling Angels: A Novel
Falling Angels: A Novel by Tracy Chevalier (Paperback - Sept. 24 2002)
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