Synopsis: January 1901, the day after Queen Victoria’s death: two families visit neighbouring graves in a fashionable London cemetery. One is decorated with a sentimental angel, the other an elaborate urn. The Waterhouses revere the late Queen and cling to Victorian traditions; the Colemans look forward to a more modern society. To their mutual distaste, the families are inextricably linked when their daughters become friends behind the tombstones. And worse, befriend the gravedigger’s son. As the girls grow up and the new century finds its feet, as cars replace horses and electricity outshines gas lighting, Britain emerges from the shadows of oppressive Victorian values to a golden Edwardian summer. It is then that the beautiful, frustrated Mrs Coleman makes a bid for greater personal freedom, with disastrous consequences, and the lives of the Colemans and the Waterhouses are changed forever.
Title: Falling Angels
Author: Tracy Chevalier
After reading ‘Girl With A Pearl Earring’, I went on a bit of a Chevalier binge and bought two more of her books. ‘Falling Angels’ is the first of these that I’ve read.
In true Chevalier style the plot is calm and the prose is easy, yet mesmerising in its simplistic beauty. We are gently taken through the customs and traditions of everyday life in a different era. The characters unfold and grow, not from one single point of view, but each from their own perspective. The descriptive quality and simple prose allow the story to unfold in an almost serene manner.
‘Falling Angels’ is based around a cemetery and I have to admit, I was hesitant about the constant reference to death at first, it seemed to be too morbid a concept to pull off. However, Chevalier uses it as a reminder of our mortality in a constantly changing world. The messy, knitty-gritty parts of life that we are so averse to – the mistakes, the dramas – these are all aspects of the living, and we should embrace them as much as the good times.
Chevalier’s writing style has a certain element of magic to it; it’s beautiful and simple and, interwoven with a great intuition for pace, drives the mood and suspense of her novels to boiling point. She is fast becoming a favourite author and I can’t wait to read more of her work.