Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Review: The Night Falling by Katherine Webb

Title:  The Night Falling

Publisher: November 25 2014 by Hachette AustraliaOrion
Pages: 432 pages
How We Read It: ARC ebook
Genre: historical fiction
Our Rating: three ½ cups


Puglia, 1921. Leandro Cardetta, born into poverty, emigrated to America to make his fortune and has returned home to southern Italy a rich man, accompanied by his glamorous wife, Marcie, an ex-showgirl fighting middle age. Now Leandro has money enough to hire renowned English architect, Boyd Kinsgley, to renovate a crumbling palazzo into an Art Deco statement of wealth, and host Boyd's teenage son and his diffident young second wife, Clare, for one extraordinary summer.

Under the burning sky, beyond the luxury of Leandro's home, tensions are high. Veterans of the Great War are desperate for work and food. Among these is Ettore, Leandro's nephew. Gripped by grief at the loss of his fiancée, Ettore has sworn to identify Livia's killer, and take his revenge. He is too proud to go to his uncle for charity, but when he injures himself one day, he has no choice but to knock on Leandro's door. Meeting Clare there will change everything - and in the most violent way.

During the fierce summer of 1921, all these lives converge. Exactly how did Leandro grow rich in America, and what is the strange hold he has over Boyd? What happened to the first Mrs Kingsley, and what secret haunts the outwardly exuberant Marcie Cardetta? Hearts will be broken, blood will be spilt and the hardest of life's lessons will be learnt as shadows fall.

Our thoughts:

“The streets of Gioia feel poised, as tense as a pent breath; like the whole town is waiting to exhale, and that exhale might be a roar”.

We have mixed feelings about this book. We were expecting to get swept away immediately, and kept telling ourselves, that the author was taking her time in establishing the characters and situation etc. So the first odd hundred pages are not inspiring. Persevere though, for the tale will take over and you will be rewarded by a very skilful pulling together of separate threads into a climactic ending.  The plot twists, especially towards the finale, are most noteworthy.

“There are things we can’t force, and things we can’t help but do, where the heart in involved”.

This is a tale based on alternating chapters between the two lead characters – Clare and Ettore – and is set mainly in the South East corner of rural Italy in 1921. There is such an array of strong characters in this tale that you will be pleasantly surprised. They will do, and have to do, so much just to survive, with each individual convinced that their path is the right one.  

“This is not Britain, Mrs Kingsley; this is not even Italy. This is Puglia”.

Initially we found the political component of the story rather tortuous. But as the author correctly states, this is a tale that is true to the era and to the social and political landscape of the time. There is a lot to be learnt in this small post-war area of Italy – the suffering that existed and how the people tried to overcome such dire poverty with methods that may not be sanctioned and peaceful, and ultimately, had such devastating consequences.

We only wish we'd had the impulse from the start and that whilst the author remained as true as possible to facts, captured the readers attention earlier. Some aspects of the tale were a little too wordy for us – a sensory overload in adjectives – but then again, you might like to get lost in lavish descriptions.

“He’s one of a silent multitude who have broken themselves against the rocks and hard ground, who have starved and toiled and ground a life out of dust, and afterwards have given back their bones for the privilege. Short lives, anonymous lives; lives lived hand to mouth, with their fleeting moments of joy like tiny sparks that flare and are then snuffed out”.

If you give yourself the time to become immersed, then perhaps you'll rush to the end as we did. 

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.

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