Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Book Review: Before The Fall by Juliet West

Welcome to September!  I hope you're not mourning the loss of summer too much?  In case the weather has turned colder and wetter where you are, I have another book review for you today so that you can curl up with a cuppa.  I also have to confess that as you're reading this, I personally will be thinking 'cocktails' rather than cuppas, and will be on a plane to Spain!  I'll be offline for a week and will catch up with the blogosphere on my return.

Set at the time of the first world war, Before the Fall is the debut novel by Juilet West that centres around London's East End and a cast of characters who can't escape tragedy even though they're on the peripherary of war - being at home wasn't necessarily safer than being in the trenches.

I think the war is everywhere: in the rain, in the river, in the grey air that we breathe. It is a current that runs through all of us. You can’t escape the current; either you swim with it, or you go under…

Before the Fall book review

I was impressed with the idea behind the book - West had found a series of newspaper clippings from the time that told of a man jumping in front of a train, and the story that unravelled in the aftermath.  This novel is an attempt to fill in the blanks and create a whole backdrop of characters to set the simple story of the news clippings in context.  It's all very skilfully done and it certainly was a page-turner for me, though I knew from the start that the overtones of impending doom weren't going to give me a happy ending.  I don't want to give too much away, but the story centres around a love affair that is one of those 'complicated' ones.

I enjoyed the style of writing and the development of the characters, and West certainly knows how to capture a sense of time and place, but it was ultimately a depressing read.  I think what I like most about reading stories set in the world wars generally is the hope, the bravery, the not giving up and all of those other British sentiments that make you proud of what your country was able to do when working together.  This book very much focuses on the hopelessness side of things, and I have to say that I don't go for those kind of stories generally - I'm personally more interested in triumph over adversity tales.

I will, however, be watching with interest to see what West writes next, as I found her writing very good, and with the right narrative I think I could really enjoy reading more of her work.

Before the Fall is published by Macmillan.  I received a copy of the book for review, but as always, views are my own!


  1. You always find the most interesting reads! lol... for me I do like books that are a little on the depressing and sad side... I will have to add this to my to-read list! (I can't keep up with you!!!) Hope you have a great vacation in Spain!

  2. That sounds really interesting. Although I don't usually go in for "downer" reads, I love the idea of coming up with this complicated backstory for someone that you read about in a newspaper clipping. I think we all do that, to a certain extent, and it's great that she's come up with this entire cast of characters to explain this one action that she has no background on.
    I've read some great books set during WWII, but I think my favorites in recent years were Blackout and All Clear, by an author named Connie Willis. There's an element of sci-fi - the main characters have travelled back in time to observe the people affected by the Blitz - but it's so meticulously researched and deliberately paced that it doesn't really have a sci-fi feel to it. When I visited London, I had made notes of of things and places that I wanted to visit because they were mentioned in the book.

  3. I'm trying not, as I do love fall fiercely, but it's extra hard this year because I feel like summer sort of snuck past me as I was crazy hard at work nearly every day of the season and didn't get to enjoy it (summer) as much as usual. Oh well, there's always next year and it does serve as a powerful reminder to slow down and remember to smell those proverbial roses.

    Great book review, honey. I always enjoy yours immensely and have discovered numerous great reads via them (thank you!).

    ♥ Jessica

    1. You're welcome! I'm so glad you've found my reviews useful. Hope you're holding on to summer with both hands!! P x


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