As I mentioned the other day, due to a massive mega-FAIL on my behalf, the book I intended to read for 1917 took a little longer to arrive than I was expecting. It’s here now – it arrived just the other day. But three days isn’t enough time to read a three-hundred-or-so page book. So, in the meantime, I thought I’d do something a little different this week for Book to the Future…
(if you’re totally new to Book to the Future, by the way, I’ve written a funky new page about the project. Click here to take a look – and find out what this here blog is all about…)
Think of all the authors I’ve read for Book to the Future so far – from Joseph Conrad to E. M. Forster to Andre Gide to James Joyce. They’ve all got one thing in common.
They’re all dead.
Dead as doornails, as Dickens (also dead) would say. They’re ex-authors: they have ceased to be. They’ve shuffled off this mortal coil, they’re pushing up daisies, they’ve bitten the big one – so to speak.
So, this week, I read a book by an author who (shock! horror!) is actually alive. Alive and awesome, in fact. I’ve been following her on Twitter for months and months now. And she’s lovely. I was beginning to feel rather guilty about not having read her book…and, when I realised how badly I’d messed up 1917, it dawned on me that this would be a great opportunity to read her book. After all, I was beginning to become quite depressed at the prospect of having to wait for two-and-a-bit years before I’d have the time to finally pick it up…
This week on Book to the Future, no time travel was required. Here’s my review for this week…
After the Fall
by Kylie Ladd
Published in 2009
The first is a very, very comfortable chair. And the second is time. A lot of time. Because, I can guarantee you, once you read the first page of After the Fall, you won’t want to stop. Like chocolate; like a new love, once you’ve tried a taste, a little isn’t enough. Start reading this book and, before you know it, it’ll be three in the morning. Personal experience speaking here…
As the front cover of my edition so aptly states, After the Fall is an “insight into the anatomy of an affair”. That word – anatomy – is so appropriate because it’s so clinical and detached. The story is presented as a sequence of short chapters, written from the first-person perspective of each of the characters involved (and, here and there, a few other characters pop up to tell their stories, too). It’s like being presented with evidence in a court. Each witness character allows us to taste a little slice of their story, then steps aside to make way for someone else. There’s no one prevailing perspective, no authorial voice wading in to tell us The Truth. Only different stories – which, intriguingly, don’t always match up.
From the very first sentence of After the Fall, I was hooked: “I had been married three years when I fell in love” says Kate. This single, amazing sentence tells us what’s in store, and we jump into the story already knowing what it’s about – because it’s already happened. There’s no room for will-they-or-won’t-they. They will. They already have. It’s just a matter of how – and how it all comes apart.
Kate is married to Cary. Luke is married to Cressida. The two couples meet, and, despite their differences, they become friends. Then, at a wedding, Kate and Luke share an almost random kiss. It’s the beginning of a painful, passionate affair that forever alters the lives of the two couples and their friends. And that’s all I’ll tell you about the plot – frankly, it’s too good to spoil.
Although it’s amazingly readable, After the Fall is hardly easy to read. It’s a little like driving past a car crash – the spiral of events is so compelling, so awful, you can’t drag your eyes away. It would be wrong to call After the Fall a romance. It’s too unsettling, too tense for that.
The most amazing thing about After the Fall is the way Kylie Ladd manages to create a cast of characters and bring them to life so genuinely. One moment, you’ll hate them. The next page, something will happen that will change your mind…but then, you’ll turn a page and despise them even more than you did to begin with. You’d better be ready to have your emotions messed with when you pick up After the Fall. Your feelings for these characters will change every moment. The characters of After the Fall aren’t consistent. There are no good guys and no bad guys. No one is infallible. Everyone makes mistakes. Much like real people.
I adore stories that experiment with the first person perspective, and After the Fall is no exception. Sometimes, characters misinterpret each others’ actions – and sometimes, even each other. For instance, it’s interesting to note the difference between the way Luke describes Kate’s personality, and the way Cary, her husband, describes her. Who’s to say which is right?
Then, there’s the really awkward part. You’ll begin to recognise aspects of these four characters in yourself. For instance, my job is remarkably similar to Luke’s. I have a lot in common with the scatterbrained, impulsive Kate – and yet, I completely understand and respect Cressida’s cool, logical determination. Even more worryingly, you can’t help but reexamine your own relationship after reading After the Fall. Let me reiterate: although compelling, it’s not an easy read. It will leave you feeling raw for days.
It’s the characters of After the Fall that I’ll remember the most. But that’s not to ignore the quality of the writing. Particularly in the opening passages, Kylie Ladd’s writing zings. It’s polished to perfection. That first sentence would have to be amongst the best I’ve ever read. It’s an opening sentence that grabs you, hook, line, sinker, tackle box, daggy fishing hat and all. Then, there’s the feeling of incredible, heavy suspense that sits in around the middle of the novel. After all, we know that the affair will end; we know it’ll all come crashing down. It’s just a matter of time…the suspense is unbearable.
After the Fall neither condemns nor glamorises its subject matter. It just presents the reader with the stories of the characters involved, each with their own distinctive voice. Not every question is answered. Who is right? Who is wrong? That’s left for you to decide.
But no matter what you decide, After the Fall will have you looking inside yourself – in the way that truly brilliant literature somehow does.
Official Book to the Future Rating:
Superawesome! – Awesome – Okay – Blah – Superblah!
Should I read it?
Absolutely. But keep in mind that it’s not a light book you can read down at the beach – unless you really want to have tears streaming down your face on the beach, that is. I’m not really sure what male readers would think of After the Fall. I’d lend it to my husband to read, but a) he prefers books with elves, aliens, dragons, starships or all of the above and b) frankly, I don’t want to give him ideas. After the Fall would make a great book club read – much like The Slap, it’s got the same capacity to get people talking.
In a word: