Fell by Jenn Ashworth
|Fell by Jenn Ashworth|
|Category: General Fiction|
|Reviewer: Ani Johnson|
|Summary: The compelling story of a woman's return to her childhood home, written with a mystical touch and a lyrical ghostly commentary.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 304||Date: July 2016|
|External links: Author's website|
Now her parents have died, Annette returns to sell her old childhood home but there's work to do on the decrepit building first. As she wanders around and tries to make some order of the overgrown shambles, she's watched by the ghost of her mother, Netty; a spirit with regrets. Netty reminisces about Annette's childhood and the turning point their lives reached when the mysterious healer Timothy Richardson came to stay. It was a time that promised so much but one for which Netty now needs to make amends, even if she is beyond the grave.
Lancastrian author Jenn Ashworth's career has been embellished with accolades from the beginning. Jenn's 2009 debut A Kind of Intimacy won a 2010 Betty Trask award. This was followed in 2011 by Cold Light and the news that Jenn would be on the BBC TV's Culture Show list of 12 best new novelists. Fell is novel number 4 and continues Jenn's rise as she mixes the dead, the living and some atmospheric cliff hanging to ensure our full attention.
The idea for the tale comes from the story of Baucis and Philemon, an elderly couple who invite disguised gods to stay. Jenn doesn't follow the myth to the realms of full-on fantasy, however, to Netty and husband Jack, Tim has god-like potential. For them his ability to heal is the ability to renew life but there's more to their lodger and his motives than that.
Lodger Tim is just one of the little teases with which Jenn entices us. As we become acquainted with everyone and then try and work out exactly who Timothy is and what he's up to via Netty's flashbacks, the novel becomes utterly compelling. Through these gradual revelations we realise what the family, including Annette, have gone through, making us wish we could hug her through the pages.
There's metaphor in the house, it's easy for us to link the people it contained and their relationships with its current state. The title is also very clever, meaning more than the connection with the overgrown tree in the garden. Yet there's plenty there for those who would rather read a story straight off the page rather than dig deeper for things on which to mull. For instance this is a family that's rich in stories as we live with them day-to-day. Alongside that mystery coats our lodger like a shell as we wait for the cracks to appear. We're brought into the bosom of the household as the readily evoked emotion that each page is soaked in becomes almost tangible.
We feel for Netty as she realises the errors and her attempts to fix them from beyond the veil. Meanwhile back in the day, Candy provides a contrast with Tim. A rough and ready family friend, this is a woman who desperately wants to provide healing because she can't sit back and do nothing rather than from an imparted gift.
It's not all doom and gloom though so that shouldn't put anyone off reading it. The novel lilts and rolls lyrically to a heart-warming conclusion, acting as a consolation to those of us who don't want it to end.
(Thank you so much Sceptre for providing us with a copy for review.)
Further Reading: We also heartily recommend Jenn's Cold Light and The Friday Gospels. If you're already a fan and enjoy novels that are as evocative of time and place, there's the equally wonderful Unexploded by Alison MacLeod.
You can read more book reviews or buy Fell by Jenn Ashworth at Amazon.com.
Like to comment on this review?
Just send us an email and we'll put the best up on the site.