All Fall Down by Sally Nicholls
|All Fall Down by Sally Nicholls|
|Reviewer: Mary Esther Judy|
|Summary: When the Black Death finally strikes Isabel's quiet Yorkshire village, her entire world comes crashing down. An incredible story of survival and courage, All Fall Down is not only a brilliant work of historical fiction, but recommended to sit alongside contemporary dystopian fiction.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 256||Date: March 2012|
|Publisher: Marion Lloyd Books|
|External links: Author's website|
Longlisted for the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2013
It’s the summer of 1349. Isabel lives her young life as a villein, tied to the land which the family rents from the Lord of the small village of Ingleform in Yorkshire. Leaving is not an option. Life as a villein is hard, but nothing has prepared Isabel for the all-consuming Black Death decimating everything in its path as it sweeps across Europe. But when the plague runs riot across all of Britain, finally reaching her town, life there is devastaed. It seems the world will end in a wave of fear, pestilence and horror.
Told in the first person, Isabel's account paints a picture of life and death during the time of the plague, the most infamous ‘apocalyptic’ event in European history. After the death of her father, much-loved step-mother and baby brother, Isabel is left to fend for herself and her younger siblings. She and the remains of her family are taken to a Yorkshire town to live with a kindly (and wealthy) stranger, whose own family has been wiped out by the Black Death. She is unhappy there; the family does not fare well in their new life and tragedy is not far from reaching them. But the long road home is not easy, and once they do return to Ingleform, will they find a new life, a new world?
This is Sally Nicholls' third book and her first foray into historical fiction for young people. And she does it with great effect. The events and atmosphere are painted with great detail and accuracy. Not only does she display the texture of life during the Black Death with all of its sights, sounds and smells; Nicholls gives us a unique insight into the workings of the human heart and mind. It shows the reader the intricacies of belief, as the villagers truly believe that God will not strike down the righteous and holy. When it does reach their village, we see how panic and terror turn inward and its psychological effects are nearly as damaging as the physical. The characterisation of Isabel is revealing of a young girl living in traumatic times. Her internal conversations and thoughts mirror typical teenage immediacy and confusion that cause it to be a great coming-of-age story. The reader is given the full range of emotion and thought; grief, growth, determination, guilt, exhaustion… survival against all odds. This book is by no means a dismal account. There is great joy, humour and hope with the adversity.
It may seem strange to want to set All Fall Down, a sterling historical novel set in Medieval England, alongside the current crop of dystopian literature for young adults. But I would not hesitate to do so. As Nicholls states herself in the preface, the Black Death was the single most catastrophic event in the history of Europe, wiping out from one-half to two-thirds of the population at the time. Its apocalyptic nature and story of survival recounted in this book begs consideration in terms of dystopian fiction. An incredible story of survival and courage.
Also, I'd strongly suggest Season of Secrets for another brillaint read by the same author. For other great historical reads, you might like Newes From The Dead by Mary Hooper, The Road of Bones by Anne Fine and The Fool's Girl by Celia Rees. For a more dystopian audience, I'd suggest Birthmarked and Prized, both by Caragh O'Brien.
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You can read more book reviews or buy All Fall Down by Sally Nicholls at Amazon.com.
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