Fall by Colin McAdam
|Fall by Colin McAdam
|Category: Literary Fiction
|Reviewer: Eileen Shaw
|Summary: You will worry from the beginning about Noel, anti-hero of this creepily authentic story of boarding school life among the children of Canada's elite. Just for a start he's in love with a girl who barely knows he exists - but Noel is sure she is going to be his - forever.
|Date: April 2009
|Publisher: Jonathan Cape
St Ebery is an elite boarding school in a leafy Canadian suburb where the children of diplomats rub up against the children of other wealthy families. Noel is the son of an Australian attaché and his room-mate is Julius whose father is the American Ambassador to Canada. The school is mostly male, with around 30 or so female students. Julius and Noel are 18, in their final year, and Julius is in love with Fall, short for Fallon, who is the most beautiful girl in the school. Noel is in love with Fall too, but you wouldn't know it. He barely exchanges two words with her, but what goes on in Noel's head and what happens outside of it are soon established as two different things.
Julius and Noel share the narrative which consists of events covering a couple of terms in this, their last year of schooling. Julius's narrative is all sensuality and stream of consciousness, while Noel's is a straight recording of what happens. If, that is, anything can said to be straight in Noel's perceptions. Put the two narratives side by side and you would find few references to Noel in Julius's life, but in Noel's account, Julius and Fall dominate everything.
One senses from the beginning that Noel is a troubled kid. He works-out regularly and is afflicted with a lazy eye; episodes of violence in his past have given him a reputation which makes others wary of him. Noel is sanguine where Julius and Fall are concerned, he figures it is fitting for the beautiful Fall to have her time with the popular and good-looking Julius, because eventually, Fall is going to realise that Noel is her one true love.
The creeping unease of the plot works well to sustain the reader's interest but Noel's version of events are too strong to support the delicate framework of a competing sense of reality, which I feel we are meant to experience. We don't quite do that because Julius's inarticulate renderings are unfocused and sometimes absurd. Lost in a world of sensual dreaming and sexual longing, Julius's reality is no competition for the brooding menace and pain of Noel's experiences. As a result this is really Noel's story, with everyone else taking a back-seat, whether they are meant to or not.
Fall has an edgy plot and there is fine and telling evocation of friendships and bullying among the students, but there is not the balance that was intended. Partly this is because Noel is such a strongly invoked character against the nebulous Julius. Nevertheless this is an absorbing read with a troubling and penetrating theme of teenaged obsession.
Further Reading: Meet Me At The Boathouse by Suzanne Bugler has an equally sinister focus on an obsessive relationship, or try the marvellous Anne Cassidy's Just Jealous which dissects teenaged infatuation and youthful violence and comes highly recommended.
Many thanks to the publishers for sending this book for review.
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You can read more book reviews or buy Fall by Colin McAdam at Amazon.com.
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