Sunday, March 31, 2013

Review: Falling Angels by Tracy Chevalier

Title: Falling Angels
Author: Tracy Chevalier
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Plume
Published: 2002
Pages: 336

Rating - 9 out of 10

I absolutely loved Girl with a Pearl Earring, so I finally decided to read this one, now that it had sat on my shelf for a few years untouched. To think that such a book had been in my possession unread for so long!

"Falling Angels" is the story of two families in Victorian England, who live next door to each other. Both rivalry and friendship are involved in the Coleman and the Waterhouse's delicately strained relationship, and the reader watches the members of the families change and grow up over the years.

I loved how Chevalier wrote from different character's points of view, even occasionally through the voices of more minor characters. It really filled out the story and made the people and scenes of her book come alive.
And, the book seemed to wander along with the carefree ease of two of its main characters - silly, sheltered girls. Not much happened. Mrs. Waterhouse worries about Mrs. Coleman's home decor being superior to hers, a feisty in-law tries to take over care of the household, two young girls develop a friendship. Not the most riveting of events.
But about halfway through, I was suddenly unable to put the book down. I had fallen in love with the characters, and felt as if they were my longtime friends. This is a story of people who grow to feel wholly real. A story of life (and death), and a group of people trying to make their way through the two.

I found the slightly Gothic feel to this book a curious, memorable aspect. The book opens with Queen Victoria's death, and ends with King Edward's. A prominent scene is the graveyard. Instead of playing tea parties and doll houses, the two young girls in this book (Livy and Maude) play there daily. Their best friend is a young gravedigger, and instead of looking through books of ponies and kittens, they enjoy perusing tombstones.
I loved the character development of Maude's mother, Kitty Coleman. We see her introduced as a lively, beautiful young woman and slide into selfishness and neglect of her daughter, though for a good cause - the Suffragist Movement, which provides the author with a complex, fine lined sub-plot that she pulls off flawlessly.
Even more minor characters, such as the cook, or Maude's snooty grandmother, are realistic and memorable.
I love how all of the characters in this book came to life.

As much as I loved Girl with a Pearl Earring, this one surpasses it easily. What a beautiful, gracefully powerful book.