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.