After The Fall by Charity Norman
|After The Fall by Charity Norman|
|Category: General Fiction|
|Reviewer: Zoe Page|
|Summary: As her young son's life hangs in the balance, his mother is forced to reflect on the actions that have brought them to this point. An easy but imperfect read that is quite unexpected.|
|Buy? Maybe||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 366||Date: December 2012|
|Publisher: Allen & Unwin|
It’s the middle of the night when five year old Finn falls from the balcony at his home in a remote part of New Zealand. Leaving his twin brother and older sister in the care of a neighbour, his mother Martha stays with him as a helicopter races him to the nearest hospital. But as he is rushed into surgery, she is taken to one side for questioning, with first nursing staff then the police and social workers raising concerns. Was Finn really sleep walking, something he is prone to do? But if so, how did he come to have suspicious bruises on one side of his body, not in keeping with how he landed? And if it wasn’t the accident Martha is saying it was, was his mother involved or is she covering for someone?
I was excited to read this book because I have read very few set in New Zealand, and I found this gave an excellent insight into the country through ex-pat eyes, a trait shared by both the characters and the author. The title is misleading, for very little of this book is about what happens after the fall, and almost as soon as Finn is taken to hospital, Martha’s mind begins to wander back to their departure from the UK a year ago, and the ups and downs of life in NZ for all members of the family since then.
The story drifts back and forth but most of the action is in the past and runs in smooth chronological order back to the present and what really happened on that night. Like a row of dominoes, there were lots of interconnected events that culminated in Finn’s fall, and it only took a small wobble for them all to come crashing down. Martha is torn between doing what is best for her family, and abiding by the law, and every time she is questioned she has an internal struggle to answer the question: how far will you go to protect the ones you love?
This was a very interesting and unexpected book, and while I enjoyed the style of writing there were a few areas I wasn’t the biggest fan of. I don’t think Martha’s mother’s spirit added a great deal and this could just as easily have been a generic voice inside her head rather than pinning it to a person. Equally, Sacha’s secret was more brutal than I was expecting and came as quite a surprise to me, not because these things don’t happen but because I wasn’t expecting as such in this story.
There were a few red herrings as well – I thought perhaps the story with their neighbour might be more significant – and there were additional elements that seemed to be thrown in for no real reason, such as who the boys’ school teacher was, something revealed but barely explored. Ditto when Sacha's paternity came out, it was a statement and then the point was dropped, and the story wandered off in a different direction.
In the end, my main complaint was that this was a long and busy book where the author tried to tie every last bit together at the end, which I didn’t think was required, and which made it seem less real somehow. I really enjoyed reading it because I was kept wondering what the next page would bring, but looking back there are lots of holes I would wish to pick.
It’s a very readable book, but I think it tries to do too much and the result is a story that’s longer than it needs to be, darker than I expected (surely a child plummeting head first off a balcony is enough) and too focused on the past when I imagine the future could have been quite interesting as well.
Thanks go to the publishers for supplying this book.
You can read more book reviews or buy After The Fall by Charity Norman at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
After The Fall by Charity Norman is in the Richard and Judy Book Club Spring 2013.
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