The Opposite of Falling by Jennie Rooney

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The Opposite of Falling by Jennie Rooney

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Category: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Katie Pullen
Reviewed by Katie Pullen
Summary: A short, sweet and fulfilling novel of love and loss as three people search for answers and their place in life, set against a world of travel, flying machines and the wonderful backdrop of Niagara Falls.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 272 Date: June 2010
Publisher: Chatto & Windus
ISBN: 978-0701182687

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It is 1862 and when wealthy Liverpool girl Ursula Bridgewater finds herself single and restless after her fiancée Henry Springton leaves her for another woman, she soon turns to travel as a means of escape and sets off on her first expedition. But she has agreed to stay friends with Henry and cannot quite escape him completely as they continue to write to each other. Ten years later and Ursula has travelled all over the world and is about to embark on a trip around America, but this time she decides to take a companion.

After a recommendation she employs Sally Walker, a young girl who has grown up under the eyes of the strict nuns at The Orphanage of the Holy Innocents in Liverpool after witnessing her mother's horrific death.

When the two reach America and Niagara Falls their fates merge with that of Toby O'Hara, a young man who has come to Niagara to work as a balloonist, offering hot air balloon rides as a unique way of seeing the Falls. He is keen to follow in his father's footsteps with the invention of a flying machine as a tribute to his mother who lost her life flying one of his father's. All three are tormented by their pasts: can they find the answers at Niagara Falls?

They say that for musicians the second album is the tricky one and I have often wondered if the same is true for writers and second books. Whether true or not, Jennie Rooney has written an excellent second novel that she can be proud of. I haven't read her first book Inside the Whale but judging by its good review on The Bookbag, I can see that Rooney has continued to write in the same manner in The Opposite of Falling.

The novel has a multi-layered structure which is a little complicated as Ursula, Sally and Toby all have their own narrative, and you might think this would be confusing, but it isn't as Rooney moves us easily in and out of each character's world. I wondered how she would manage this structure once the three characters come together, so I was impressed that she combines their narratives smoothly and in such a way that it is barely noticeable and certainly does not detract from the story.

Rooney certainly has a way with words as she evokes the bustling world of the mid 1800s, both in Liverpool and Niagara Falls subtly and delicately giving us the sights, sounds and smells surrounding her characters. But when we first see Niagara Falls along with Ursula the romantic description of this wonderful place I was expecting is the exact opposite as Ursula is very disappointed by what she sees and instead our first impression is one of ugliness rather than beauty. I thought this was rather clever on Rooney's part particularly as it does not detract from what is clearly a wonderful setting and also reminded me to expect the unexpected where Ursula is concerned.

I was most impressed though by her passages concerning Toby O'Hara's father Edmund and his attempts to fly, which are intriguing and exciting and made me keen to discover more about man's first attempts to fly. There is also an underlying sense of romance to Rooney's writing, which makes it almost lyrical in places.

So top marks go to Jennie Rooney for this highly enjoyable book, which I can highly recommend it to anyone wanting a charming, delightful and escapist read.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

Further Reading Suggestion: If you like the sound of this book you may also enjoy Jennie Rooney's first novel Inside the Whale or for more on Niagara Falls try The Day The Falls Stood Still by Cathy Marie Buchanan.

Buy The Opposite of Falling by Jennie Rooney at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Opposite of Falling by Jennie Rooney at

Buy The Opposite of Falling by Jennie Rooney at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Opposite of Falling by Jennie Rooney at


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