Falling Out of Time by David Grossman

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Falling Out of Time by David Grossman

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Category: Literary Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Rebecca Foster
Reviewed by Rebecca Foster
Summary: In a dark fable that also incorporates poetry and lines of dialogue, Grossman explores the loss of a child from multiple perspectives. Though easily read in one sitting, this is a book that will continue to affect you long after you put it down.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 208 Date: February 2015
Publisher: Vintage
ISBN: 9780099583721

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Like the central characters in Falling Out of Time, Israeli author David Grossman lost his son, a soldier named Uri, during the Middle East conflict. In this multifaceted examination of bereavement, it seems that everyone has lost a child. The genre-bending mixture of poetry, absurdist dialogue, and an inverted fairy tale reflects the difficulty of ever capturing grief in language. Each story and each strategy is like a new way of approaching the unspeakable.

There is not much of a storyline here; it is better to approach the book as a fever dream of pain and loss. However, it does start out as a quest narrative. A couple discuss the death of their son five years ago, still as fresh as yesterday. The man decides to journey out in search of their son, while the woman will stay home. In their grief, they recall, 'we learned / to live / the inverse / of life.' The woman remembers that their son 'had smells for every season: / the earthy aromas of autumn hikes, rain evaporating from wool sweaters.' Their interchanges vacillate from lushly poetic to spare and even Beckettian in their repetitious querulousness.

The narrator of the text is a town chronicler who moves from dwelling to dwelling, unearthing myriad tales of lost children. The midwife and cobbler lost a daughter; the elderly maths teacher's son died 26 years ago; the chronicler's own daughter drowned 13 years ago. From the 'centaur', an irascible writer, all the way up to the duke, this entire kingdom is composed of bereaved parents. The town chronicler was once the duke's jester, but now cannot bear to laugh. These childless parents are a hidden, outcast race, almost zombielike.

The characters have minor differences of opinion about how to move on. Many of them try walking, but what are they heading towards? Do they really want to experience the death again, or is that the only way of processing it? The centaur swears by storytelling: 'if I don't write it I won't understand…I must recreate it in the form of a story! Do you get / that?' The elderly maths teacher, on the other hand, feels compelled to quantify his loss. He tries to objectively describe grief, asking whether it is 'Like a block of concrete? / An iron ingot? / An impassable dam? / Like basalt rock? / Or rather – like the layers of an onion?'

Indeed, like an endlessly peeling onion, grief keeps on affecting these characters. Grossman offers no hope of pain disappearing or even decreasing, but he acknowledges that it changes over time: 'his death – it swells, / abates, / fulminates.' He wrote the book between 2009 and 2011; by that point five years had passed since his son's death. Though it can be read in one sitting, this is a novel that continues affecting you long after you put it down. It is no 'easy' read emotionally, but you cannot help but admire Grossman for giving a voice to his loss.

Further reading suggestion: To the End the Land is Grossman's masterpiece. The Grief of Others by Leah Hager Cohen also tackles the loss of a child.

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Buy Falling Out of Time by David Grossman at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Falling Out of Time by David Grossman at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Falling Out of Time by David Grossman at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Falling Out of Time by David Grossman at Amazon.com.


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