The Night Falling by Katherine Webb
|The Night Falling by Katherine Webb
|Category: Historical Fiction
|Reviewer: Susmita Chatto
|Summary: A beautifully written novel which tells a complex tale of pride and passion among the rich and poor in a world still reeling from the Great War.
|Date: November 2014
In the summer of 1921, Leandro returns to his birthplace in Italy. He has made his fortune, and his aim is to transform a crumbling palazzo into an opulent mansion. But the outside world is still reeling from the Great War, and Leandro’s nephew, Ettore, is one of those most in need of help. Reluctantly, Ettore asks his uncle for assistance. But Ettero could not have foreseen what was to come from that request…
I really enjoy Katherine Webb’s work and was really looking forward to reading this. Pleasing established fans can be particularly challenging as the author has to meet high expectations. Happily, this novel does not disappoint.
Webb has a trademark style which takes the reader on a journey. Her words gently beckon and her storytelling draws you in; you want to follow where she leads, delighting - and occasionally shuddering! - in the sights and senses of the journey that results. This novel showcases those skills brilliantly as we switch from worlds of luxury and opulence to scarcity and desperation, all the while following characters who look out from the windows of their own worlds into a polar opposite.
Webb not only builds a full and complex storyline here, but also packs an emotional punch with her writing. The scene setting is remarkable, with the poverty of a war-ravaged country being brought so much to life that I could smell it. The contrasts of the lives of the rich and poor were well fleshed out, and the resulting jealousy and division fully explored. Leandro’s own journey has been sensitively written and I really felt for him in the excitement of the new and the emotional gulf of what happens when you try to go home again.
There is a full cast of characters here but they all have their place and a unique sense of identity. I felt the fragility of Marcie, Leandro’s wife, in particular, as well as Ettero’s frustrated pride. The storyline is complex but rewarding. Webb’s storytelling skills mean that realisations and shocks creep up on you just as they do on the characters. The characters are so well drawn, it is completely natural to get into their heads and feel for them – no matter what they get up to.
The opening of the novel speaks of the kind of change which permanently alters a character’s world. It can be risky for authors to build up suspense so early. I have mentioned this before in my reviews; if the pay-off is not worthwhile, it looks like too much set up and inevitably leaves the reader feeling let down. But there is plenty of dramatic change in this novel and plenty of secrets to unearth.
This is a complex story which will speak to readers of all kinds of fiction. If you value skilled storytelling and evocative writing which can be savoured and lingered over, this book is for you.
If this book appeals then you might also enjoy The English Girl by Margaret Leroy, a novel of secrets spilling out in the uneasy times before the outbreak of the Second World War.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Night Falling by Katherine Webb at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Night Falling by Katherine Webb at Amazon.com.
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