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Set among the sweeping skirts and social upheavals of Edwardian London, Tracy Chevalier's Falling Angels is a meditation on change, loss, and recovery. Her central characters are two young girls of the same age, whose family plots are situated side-by-side in a cemetery modeled on Highgate. Lavinia Waterhouse is respectably middle-class, devoted, like her conventional, doting mother, to the right way to do things, although suspiciously well- schooled in subjects like funerary sculpture and the English practices of mourning. Her friend Maude Coleman comes from a slightly more privileged and free-thinking background. In contrast with Lavinia's mother, Maude's mother Kitty Coleman is well-educated by the standards of the day, and it has made her restless and irritable. But neither her reading, nor her gardening, nor her affair with the somber, high-thinking governor of the cemetery is enough for Kitty. She comes alive only when she discovers the women's suffrage movement, and her devotion to the cause takes her away from Maude in every sense.
Although the point of view shifts between many characters (with even the Coleman's maid and cook getting their say, sometimes unnecessarily), Falling Angels is essentially the children's story, since it is their lives that are most open to change. The narrative spans exactly the years of Edward VII's reign, from the morning after his mother Queen Victoria's death in January 1901 to his own death in May 1910. Chevalier (Girl with a Pearl Earring) deftly uses the nation's dramatically different mourning for these two monarchs to signal the social transformations of the period. Readers at ease with English history will find Falling Angels an unusually subtle novel, with an emotional range that recalls the best of the Edwardian novelists, E.M. Forster, and his quintessential novel of Edwardian manners, Howard's End. --Regina Marler --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
No small part of the appeal of Chevalier's excellent debut, Girl with a Pearl Earring, was its plausibility; readers could readily accept the idea that Vermeer's famous painting might indeed have been created under circumstances similar to Chevalier's imaginative scenario. The same cannot be said about her second novel. While Chevalier again proves adept at evoking a historical era this time, London at the turn of the 19th century she has devised a plot whose contrivances stretch credibility. When Maude Coleman and Lavinia Waterhouse, both five years of age, meet at their families' adjoining cemetery plots on the day after Queen Victoria's death, the friendship that results between sensitive, serious-minded Maude and narcissistic, melodramatic Livy is not unlikely, despite the difference in social classes. But the continuing presence in their lives of a young gravedigger, Simon Field, is. Far too cheeky for a boy of his age and class, Simon plays an important part in the troubles that will overtake the two families. Other characters are gifted with insights inappropriate to their age or station in life. Yet Chevalier again proves herself an astute observer of a social era, especially in her portrayal of the lingering sentimentality, prejudices and early stirrings of social change of the Victorian age. When Maude's mother, Kitty, becomes obsessively involved with the emerging suffragette movement, the plot gathers momentum. While it's obvious that tragedy is brewing, Chevalier shows imaginative skill in two neatly accomplished surprises, and the denouement packs an emotional wallop. While not as accomplished a work as Girl, the ironies inherent in the dramatic unfolding of two families' lives ultimately endow this novel with an impressive moral vision. Agent, Deborah Schneider. (Oct. 15) Forecast: The popularity of Girl with a Pearl Earring among reading groups and its record as a bestseller will provide a ready audience for Chevalier's new effort. The perennial appeal of books set in post-Victorian England should be another asset.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title. See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
Most recent customer reviews
Did not quite meet my expectations. From what I read, it was supposed to be a feminst thing... but the kids and families spend their time in a cemetery. It beats me. Read morePublished 4 months ago by AnnaBru
enjoyed another of Chevalier's work. good plot - imaginative writing. planning to download more of her stories! Have read three of hers already and enjoyed all.Published on July 1 2013 by margaret g hanna
When I picked up this book, I expected it to be much like Girl with a Pearl Earring, but in fact is was quite different. Read morePublished on July 1 2004
This was just simply a great book. It is written in a journal format with several characters of the book taking a chapter or journal entry to tell the story. Read morePublished on June 11 2004 by Sarah
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. Read morePublished on June 5 2004
Of all of Chevalier's novels, this by far was my favorite. Each and every character was interesting and strongly solidified. Read morePublished on June 3 2004 by Cori Cormier
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. Read morePublished on May 24 2004 by Erika Borsos
I simply couldn't put this down. The beginning is a knock-out and the rest of the plot is so very powerful - it's a wonderful read. Read morePublished on May 21 2004 by mco5412