North has a gift for imagineering up strong heroines. Women who refuse to be victims and will fight to the death, if need be. Elena is no fool. She knows the game and is not afraid to fall. Roman is her perfect match. Her Achilles heel. Her heart's desire and her greatest fear. He sees the woman she hides behind. The fearless warrior is afraid to risk her greatest treasure. She refuses to give into her heart. Falling for the Mob Soldier is a battle between two of the most stubborn people. Elena and Roman are a dangerous duo.
In Falling Out of Time, David Grossman has created a genre-defying drama––part play, part prose, pure poetry––to tell the story of bereaved parents setting out to reach their lost children. It begins in a small village, in a kitchen, where a man announces to his wife that he is leaving, embarking on a journey in search of their dead son. The man––called simply Walking Man––paces in ever-widening circles around the town. One after another, all manner of townsfolk fall into step with him (the Net-Mender, the Midwife, the Elderly Math Teacher, even the Duke), each enduring his or her own loss. The walkers raise questions of grief and bereavement: Can death be overcome by an intensity of speech or memory? Is it possible, even for a fleeting moment, to call to the dead and free them from their death? Grossman’s answer to such questions is a hymn to these characters, who ultimately find solace and hope in their communal act of breaching death’s hermetic separateness. For the reader, the solace is in their clamorous vitality, and in the gift of Grossman’s storytelling––a realm where loss is not merely an absence but a life force of its own.
Translated from the original Hebrew, Israeli author David Grossman's unique novel explores various aspects of the grieving process through a combination of prose, poetry, even presenting a bit of the story in play format. At its core, it is described as a "fable of parental grief".
Our main character, simply named "Walking Man", working through the grief of having recently lost a child, paces around the courtyard area in front of his home in ever-widening concentric circles. This pattern has him gradually moving throughout the village, talking with other townspeople on matters they are struggling with in their own lives. Others in town choose to fall in step with him, so through this, the reader comes to know Net Mender (mute himself, he lost a six year old child); Midwife (married to Town Cobbler, they also lost a child -- a son less than 2 years old); Math Teacher; and The Duke, each working through the stories of their individual losses or struggles. Over the course of the book, we come to see that this process carries on for about five years. Occasionally, a question on the themes of grief or death is posed, something for readers themselves to think on.
There are additional characters with a little extra something interesting to their own stories, such as Town Chronicler and Town Centaur. The chronicler serves as an almost Shakespearean sort of narrator to the rest of the story, but he also has a place as character in the plot (such as it is) himself. Having lost a daughter himself, the chronicler -- as you may have guessed -- chronicles the town's activities -- especially this new fad of walking in circles everyone seems to have taken up -- in his journal, findings to be shared later with The Duke. The Duke has decreed that villagers are to share & explain their various grief stories to the Chronicler as truthfully as possible. Each person in town is asks, how would you describe the grief in your mind?
Then there's the Centaur, who is the story's placeholder for representing people that choose to try to heal or cover up emotional hurt through rabid consumerism, sometimes leading to compulsive hoarding. Centaur -- who lost a nearly 12 year old son -- most definitely uses his "collecting" as a coping mechanism, and he also seems the most vocal and cross or is it just brutal honesty? regarding the behaviors of his neighbors. Some could read it as him simply deflecting away from his own problems. As he cries out at one point, "Even the Inquisition's tax accessors didn't torture people like this!" (regarding the Chronicler's line of questioning). Near the end, Centaur actually takes over the narration of the book.
Presented in an allegorical-like style similar to that of John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, the primary theme of this story does reflect on mourning the death of a child. One character's story even looks at losing a child to suicide. However, other emotional trials are explored as well. The way Grossman chooses to bring forth the story draws the reader toward their own quiet ponderings on the various stages of mourning -- you know: mourning, sadness, denial, anger, bartering, acceptance -- as well as the ways a grieving mind will tend to look for signs of faith or hope in nearly anything.
So, yes, undeniably some heavy themes going on in this little book (less than 200 pages total) but the combination of the unique format presentation (which makes it an even quicker reader), the thoughts it provokes, and just the sheer word choice still make this a pleasure to read. I haven't read any of Grossman's other books but some of the lines in this one just stunned me in the stark, simple beauty of the phrasing. Lines like "we unspoke that night", "Why did you become dead? How could you be incautious?" or this image of a married couple trying to come back from nearly breaking apart: "I stood up. I wrapped you in a blanket, you gripped my hand, looked straight into my eyes: the man and woman we had been nodded farewell."
All universal ideas he incorporates here, but never before have I experienced them presented in quite this way. Just think on that one line: "Why did you become dead? How could you be incautious?". It sounds odd at first, but when you pause and consider it, does it not just capture that early anger you sometimes feel at having lost someone too early in life... that sense of how DARE they leave me? Again, that choice of wording! Amazing!
Sixteen-year-old Catherine Vernon has been stranded in London for the summer-no friends, no ex-boyfriend Adam the Scum (good riddance!), and absolutely nothing to do but blog about her misery to her friends back home. Desperate for something-anything-to do in London while her (s)mother's off researching boring historical things, Cat starts reading the 1815 diary of Katherine Percival her mom gives her-and finds the similarities between their lives to be oddly close. But where Katherine has the whirls of the society, the parties and the gossip over who is engaged to who, Cat's only got some really excellent English chocolate. Then she meets William Percival-the uber-hot descendant of Katherine-and things start looking up . . .
This epistolary novel spans two centuries (through alternating chapters, all of Cat's chapters headed with song titles), combining the stories of two young women, Cat and Katherine. Cat, who shares her adventures with the reader via a blog format, is a modern day American teen who travels with her mom to the UK so that her mom may study the life of Mary Percival, whom Cat describes as "some woman who did absolutely nothing of import and has been dead for two hundred years."
*In the story, this Mary Percival character died before the age of 45, like Jane Austen. The reader will pretty quickly notice that this novel is heavily influenced / inspired by Austen's work.*
Katherine is a teen in 1815 England, whose story is provided through journal entries. While reading the excerpts from the journals of both Katherine and Mary Percival, Austen fans will likely notice that those journal scenes are basically remixes of plot points from Austen's Sense & Sensibility as well as Pride & Prejudice, but with some changes to make it Jensen's own unique imaginings. For one, a character in Katherine's era drinks too much at a party and suffers a sexual assault... which helps make even this fluff piece a bit of timely reading material.
While it may be easy to dismiss this as an easy breezy read, there are some respectable moments of character growth to be had here as well as some important, and as I said earlier, timely, topics to think on. Cat outwardly comes off as spoiled and obnoxious, but as the reader gets to know her a bit better, we learn that there's actually a fair amount of emotional hurt in her that she's struggling to address. But I did enjoy her sense of humor.
For example, visiting the Tower of London and the National Portrait Gallery and coming back with the hilariously simplified "King Henry (VIII) was rather hard on his wives... and I gotta say, after Anne Boleyn, they all look a bit anxious."
Continuing on in the NPG: "Winston Churchill didn't always look like a bulldog... Queen Victoria kinda did..."
Meanwhile, Katherine in her own time is struggling to maintain her sense of self when it's expected that she should just go along with her father's plan for her. I grew to really like Katherine's mother, who did her best to keep her daughter distanced from the gross choice of a suitor Katherine's father had picked out for her.
Mama curled in her favorite cushiony chair, feet tucked beneath her. In the moment, with the fire behind her and her face softened by shadow, she was familiar, like a mirror.
"Promise me something, Katherine," she said in a quiet moment.
"If I can."
"Oh, you can. Promise me that you will think, in every moment possible, what you want for yourself. And you will stand for yourself, especially in the times when no one seems interested in standing for you."
I did not understand, not really, but I promised nonetheless.
One moment in the story also illustrates a good point regarding double standards to think on: If we can acknowledge that some women may be fine pursuing fat, ugly or socially odious men simply for monetary gain, why is it so baffling to think men might likewise pursue plain women for THEIR wealth?
If you only get through the first few chapters of this, it'll be easy to dismiss it as forgettable froth, but there is a layer of depth here I found impressive and entertaining. Admittedly, I did prefer Katherine's portions of the book, but I'm a history junkie, not to mention I just found her story, that of a young woman so desperately trying to show others she has plenty of worth as an individual, not dependent on nabbing a husband, much more interesting than Cat's humorous but somewhat privileged ramblings around London... but Cat, though maybe a little irritating at first... she grew on me :-)
This will be short. This book is terrible.
The characters are not redeeming except for two of them (Maddy and Kerr) and if the book had stayed on just Maddy and Kerry I would have liked it more. Instead we have male characters calling female characters fat, ugly, and all kinds of crap. We get some ridiculousness when one character treats a woman separate from his girlfriend with respect (that is how you know he cares about her) and the constant bed hopping though people claimed to be in love with someone was it.
Usually Mansell can juggle multiple story-lines, she can't in this one. And I am realizing that most of her books follow the same formula and it's getting old. We usually get a woman who is in her 40s and widowed (Maddy's mother) a woman who can't seem to find a boyfriend or has a terrible one (Maddy's best friend) and then just random characters that flit in and out of the story.
I didn't take any pleasure in the writing or flow since I just felt annoyed and wanted the book to get over with already. The ending was a big old shrug from me.