Give me books, fruit, french wine and fine weather and a little music out of doors. --John Keats

Monday, March 21, 2011

"Falling Angels" by Tracy Chevalier

Eight months, eight book club meetings, eight books. We finally found one that we all liked! Everything about this one was great--the writing, the story, the characters (even the ones I didn't like very much).

I loved Chevalier's Girl With a Pearl Earring (and, surprisingly, the movie was really good too). Renae started reading Falling Angels before I picked it up, and I was so excited when she said she got hooked really quickly. Although maybe I was just hearing what I wanted to hear, because what Renae had actually said was, "The beginning certainly grabbed my attention--shocking!!" But, you know, shocking can be good too. In books, anyway.

This is the story of two English families making their way into the freshly-hatched Edwardian era in London. At first, the only things the Coleman and Waterhouse families have in common are their adjacent plots in the cemetery (which is never named but was surely modeled after Highgate). Over time, the links between the two families grow more numerous and less tenuous, to the delight of certain family members and the chagrin of others.

About halfway through the story, women's suffrage became a strong theme (which was, oddly, dropped before the end of the book--I thought at least Chevalier might have included a little bit of history in an Afterword to wrap up that part of the plot . . . I guess she figured I ought to know already). Since you won't get it from the book, here's a refresher course for you: In 1918 (eight years after the end of Falling Angels) full voting rights were given to British women aged 30 and above; ten years later, this was extended to women aged 21 and up. This timeline is closely mirrored in the US, as American women were given the vote with the 19th amendment in 1920.

Anyway, I guess I can understand why Chevalier didn't emphasize suffrage more evenly throughout the book. Relating the history of the suffragettes really wasn't the purpose of the story; the cause was merely an outlet for Kitty Coleman's passion and zeal.

Do yourself a favor: if you haven't read anything by Tracy Chevalier yet, pick up something of hers soon. Yeah, I've only read two of her books, but they were two really REALLY good books. Surely that's not just a fluke.


Kate said...

Tracy Chevalier is one of those authors where I've read one of their books (Girl with a Pearl Earring) and loved it - yet never picked up anything else! I need to fix that!

Kristi said...

I have Girl With a Pearl Earring on my shelf, but I haven't read it yet. I'm so glad to hear that you love Tracy Chevalier. I'm hoping to get to it in the next month or so.

mummazappa said...

I love Tracey Chevalier, her books are always so interesting, this one is on my list to read, great to hear everyone agreed it's fantastic. A few years ago I bought a women's dresser set from the early 1900's (I splashed out and treated myself) it's so beautiful. The woman I bought it from told me that the colours (green, purple and white) are the colours of the French suffragettes, so it's likely that the woman who owned the set would have been a suffragette. I've never done any research into it to check if this is right or not (if only antiques roadshow would come to my hometown!) but I like to think I've got a bit of women's history on my dresser.

Brenna said...

I haven't read any Tracy Chevalier but I've always been interested in Girl with the Pearl Earring, mostly because I like the Vermeer painting they use on the book cover so much.

Avid Reader said...

I didn't love The Girl With the Pearl Earrings, but this one is one of my absolute favorites. I love the families, the stories, the suffragettes , everything. I've read everything by Chevalier (except her newest) and this remains my favorite.

Amy said...

I also loved Girl with a Pearl Earring (I keep promising myself one of these days I will travel north to Holland to see the actual painting) - I am going to see if my library has this one, it sounds very interesting as well.

Nymeth said...

Girl with the Pearl Earring is one of my favourite books (and films!), but this one let me down a little bit. It wasn't bad, but it could have been better. It was mostly the suffragette thing you mentioned - so much potential, but she didn't handle it quite as well as she could have.

Becky (Page Turners) said...

Ive got this on my shelf - now I can't wait to read it. Thanks!

Kathy said...

Kate--I, Kathy-who-never-steers-you-wrong, am willing to bet that you will like Falling Angels too!!

Kristi--Oooh, you do need to read GWAPE. Can't wait to hear what you think of it!

Zap--those colors were mentioned as used by the British suffragettes in this book! Sounds pretty authentic to me!

Brenna--it's a good one! Did you know the book is about that painting? About the girl who posed for it, and about Vermeer?

AR--sooo which of hers would you say is your second favorite? I need to know which one to read third.

Amy--that would be so cool to see the real painting. I'm already jealous of you and you haven't even done it yet. :)

Nymeth--I'm not sure if I would have wanted more on the suffragettes, or less . . . just seems like it could have been more even, I guess.

Becky--it's always so difficult (yet so fun!) to pick which book will be next--I always just want to read them ALL at once!--but I'd say you can't go wrong with this one!