The Fallen Hardcover – Aug 25 2009
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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.
"The Fallen feels broad and ambitious – but never overarchingly so, which is why it works so well. Finucan, who has previously published two story collections, has done his homework on a compelling period in history, but he wisely resists any temptation to flaunt it...This is a war novel in which warfare has effectively ended, yet there is no sense of real respite or freedom...Finucan does a subtle but formidable job of expressing the desperate confinement of it all." - The Toronto Star
"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
Finucan evokes this anarchic moment [of those first weeks after the Allies reached the city], with tight, evocative writing that makes The Fallen a compelling and instructive read...Best of all, and worth the novel's price, is Finucan's depiction of the uneasiness that infects people when they don't know who is in control or what will happen next...The deeper message – that fighting begets only more fighting and more death – is powerful and inescapable. The Fallen is resonant and immediate. For all that it resides in history, it speaks a lesson that we do not seem able to remember " - The Globe And Mail
“Finucan captures with impressive clarity the guilt that comes with survival. Especially excellent is his ability to conjure the essence of characters in a few strokes...These subtle portraits establish personalities with an exactitude it takes other writers whole pages to express....Subtle, patient and stately in its revelations....The novel serves as a powerful reminder that the horrors of war do not end after the guns have been set down.” - Literary Review of Canada
"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
“A complex tale of naivety, bravery and the attempt to wrest order from chaos…. 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.” - Quill & Quire (Starred Review)
Top Customer Reviews
As far as the ending goes, safe to say the book is firmly modern and realist in tone, and the ending goes for believability and consistency rather than the shocking surprise, which is likely a good thing. This book deserves to be read.