Falling Angels – Review

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Falling Angels by Tracy Chevalier
Age: Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction
Format: Audio CD

Brought together by the death of England’s Queen Victoria, the daughters of the Coleman and Waterhouse families form a strong friendship that sees them through some of the most trying, controversial and social ups and downs of the time, 1901-1910. Although on the surface this is a simple story of two girls growing up during a time of social change, there is more to the story than that. Chevalier is able to portray the larger scope of social and political thought through the ideas and voices of the two daughters, often mimicking and influenced by the views of their parents. Since the story is centered on the friendship of Maud Coleman and Lavinia Waterhouse, we see these social changes with a more sympathetic and realistic way. Despite the differences in the class status between their families, Maud’s being wealthier, the girls form a very strong friendship. This friendship usually involves the two, along with Lavinia’s younger sister Ivy May, playing around the cemetery with Simon, the son of a local gravedigger.  As social politics change, Maud’s mother becomes involved with the Suffragettes movement. The families are pushed together and pulled apart at various times in the book. The story is told through various characters: Maud, Lavinia, their parents and Maud’s cook and maid – Ms. Baker and Jenny.

In the beginning, the characters would tell their side of the same story, which had me worried that the book would be repetitious. I was pleasantly surprised that despite the overlaps, the different characters offered a completely different perspective making an event seem completely different from one an earlier character told. With each chapter the characters unfolded and developed in ways that wouldn’t be possible if the story was told through a single narrator.  I listened to the audio version of this book, and it was a wonderful production. 11 different narrators read for each of the characters. Each chapter was assigned to a different character, so there was always a different voice, mood, attitude and persona carrying the story throughout the years.

Chevalier is one of my favorite authors. I adored Girl with a Pearl Earring and Remarkable Creatures. She is very gifted at creating a definitive mood of angst, and frustration through social structure, the class system and feminist views and developments. You can really see how much care and time Chevalier spends in researching the eras that she writes about. The narrators were wonderful, fully embodied their respective characters and really carried the story. Despite the jumping around of perspectives, the story remained linear.

Falling Angels
By Tracy Chevalier
Recorded Books, 2002
ISBN 1402535066
8.75 hours / 8 discs
 Book 25 of 2011
Find this book at your local library
Falling angels

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