Fallen by Lia Mills

Writing.ie | Book Reviews | Historical Fiction

By Margaret Madden

Dublin 1915. Katie Crilly is at a crossroads in her life. Finished university and undecided about her future, she takes on a job with an elderly academic who needs some help documenting her work. Here she finds friendship and shelter away from the tension of her own family home. Her twin brother, Liam, has signed up to fight on the Western Front and she is heartbroken. She fears for his safety and struggles to wish him well. Bad news arrives not long after his departure and she spends more and more time away from home, in her workplace.

Her employer’s nephew, Hubie, returns from the Front, badly injured, and she is full of questions for him about the war, and what it is really like for the men fighting over there. At the same time, the 1916 Easter Rising is in full swing and the chaos on the streets of Dublin is increasing all around them. Katie wants to do something to help, despite having no allegiance , and places herself in perilous situations, against Hubie’s wishes. The two lost souls are drawn together under unusual circumstances and while death and carnage continue in Dublin City Centre, they find themselves embracing the solitude and discovering each other.

A story of loneliness, uncertainty and unsettled war time, Fallen is not an epic tale of historical fiction. It is more a look at what life was like for the unseen, the middle classes who lived close to the action and mayhem that was The 1916 Rising. Not the stories that are mostly told, of the volunteers, the IRA or the state of the nation as a whole. More a glimpse into the world of one woman and her limited view on the events unfolding before her very eyes. Lia Mills has written a warm narrative, not needing to resort to shock tactics to bring the reader into the troubled times. The passages where Hubie describes what it was really like in France are intense and very real. It is worth remembering that the limited news relayed back to the rest of Europe would have been censored and very vague. To hear from someone that was actually there, and were prepared to talk honestly about their experiences, would have been rare.

When we look at the documents from this period of time, and see the footage of Sackville Street, Dublin, we tend to see only the Rebels, the British Soldiers and a few civilians. We forget about the thousands who were barricaded into their own homes, the hundreds of medical staff and volunteers who were assisting under very difficult circumstances and with limited supplies, and the families who had no idea of the location of their children, husbands, brothers and sisters. This novel very cleverly address these issues and uses fantastic description of old Dublin and its famous landmarks.

There is no doubt that this novel is wonderful, especially to Irish readers who have a good knowledge of the History of our fight for Independence. I just hope that non-nationals will give the book a chance and see it for what it is. A well written account of love and hope in times of great trouble.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Get all of the latest from writing.ie delivered directly to your inbox.

Featured books