Falling Angels: A Novel

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9780452283206: Falling Angels: A Novel

New York Times bestseller

From the author of the international bestseller Girl With A Pearl Earring and At the Edge of the Orchard, Tracy Chevalier once again paints a distant age with a rich and provocative palette of characters.


Falling Angels follows the fortunes of two families in the emerging years of the twentieth century in England, while the Queen's death reverberates through a changing nation. Told through a variety of shifting perspectives—wives and husbands, friends and lovers, masters and their servants, and a gravedigger's son—Falling Angels is graced with the luminous imagery that distinguished Girl With a Pearl Earring, Falling Angels is another dazzling tour de force from this "master of voices" (The New York Times Book Review).

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Review:

Set among the sweeping skirts and social upheavals of Edwardian London, Tracy Chevalier's Falling Angels is a meditation on change, loss, and recovery. Her central characters are two young girls of the same age, whose family plots are situated side-by-side in a cemetery modeled on Highgate. Lavinia Waterhouse is respectably middle-class, devoted, like her conventional, doting mother, to the right way to do things, although suspiciously well- schooled in subjects like funerary sculpture and the English practices of mourning. Her friend Maude Coleman comes from a slightly more privileged and free-thinking background. In contrast with Lavinia's mother, Maude's mother Kitty Coleman is well-educated by the standards of the day, and it has made her restless and irritable. But neither her reading, nor her gardening, nor her affair with the somber, high-thinking governor of the cemetery is enough for Kitty. She comes alive only when she discovers the women's suffrage movement, and her devotion to the cause takes her away from Maude in every sense.

Although the point of view shifts between many characters (with even the Coleman's maid and cook getting their say, sometimes unnecessarily), Falling Angels is essentially the children's story, since it is their lives that are most open to change. The narrative spans exactly the years of Edward VII's reign, from the morning after his mother Queen Victoria's death in January 1901 to his own death in May 1910. Chevalier (Girl with a Pearl Earring) deftly uses the nation's dramatically different mourning for these two monarchs to signal the social transformations of the period. Readers at ease with English history will find Falling Angels an unusually subtle novel, with an emotional range that recalls the best of the Edwardian novelists, E.M. Forster, and his quintessential novel of Edwardian manners, Howard's End. --Regina Marler

About the Author:

"I was born and grew up in Washington, DC. After getting a BA in English from Oberlin College (Ohio), I moved to London, England in 1984. I intended to stay 6 months; I’m still here.

"As a kid I’d often said I wanted to be a writer because I loved books and wanted to be associated with them. I wrote the odd story in high school, but it was only in my twenties that I started writing ‘real’ stories, at night and on weekends. Sometimes I wrote a story in a couple evenings; other times it took me a whole year to complete one.

"Once I took a night class in creative writing, and a story I’d written for it was published in a London-based magazine called Fiction. I was thrilled, even though the magazine folded 4 months later.

I worked as a reference book editor for several years until 1993 when I left my job and did a year-long MA in creative writing at the University of East Anglia in Norwich (England). My tutors were the English novelists Malcolm Bradbury and Rose Tremain. For the first time in my life I was expected to write every day, and I found I liked it. I also finally had an idea I considered ‘big’ enough to fill a novel. I began The Virgin Blue during that year, and continued it once the course was over, juggling writing with freelance editing.

"An agent is essential to getting published. I found my agent Jonny Geller through dumb luck and good timing. A friend from the MA course had just signed on with him and I sent my manuscript of The Virgin Blue mentioning my friend’s name. Jonny was just starting as an agent and needed me as much as I needed him. Since then he’s become a highly respected agent in the UK and I’ve gone along for the ride."

Tracy Chevalier is the New York Times bestselling author of six previous novels, including Girl with a Pearl Earring, which has been translated into thirty-nine languages and made into an Oscar-nominated film. Her latest novel is The Last Runaway. Born and raised in Washington, D.C., she lives in London with her husband and son.

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