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Fallen by Lia Mills

Writing.ie | Book Reviews | Historical Fiction

By Nicola Garrett

‘Fallen’ takes us to Dublin in 1914 and to the character of Katie Crilly. She’s strong and intelligent and constantly clashes with her overbearing mother as she tries to find her place in the world. Recently graduated from university with a degree in history, she would like to take her studies further but her mother would prefer her to marry well as befits the daughter of a thriving solicitor. Her eldest sister has married a Protestant, much to their mother’s disappointment. Katie fumes that her twin brother is allowed to determine his own path in life by choosing to fight in World War I, whereas the same choices are not open to her.

Standing up to her mother to work as a research assistant with the supportive and unconventional Dote, Katie tries to navigate her way through social and family restrictions. When her brother is killed on the Western Front, the impact on the family is devastating. Katie’s lifelong companion has been snatched away from her and she tries to come to terms with her grief. In supporting her brother’s fiancée, she incurs the wrath of her mother who schemes to have the engagement ring returned to the family.

Caught between Con, her brother’s inconsistent friend, and the irritable former soldier, Hubie, Katie’s turmoil is soon matched by the unfolding events of Easter 1916. She valiantly criss-crosses the city to help friends and the injured during those chaotic days.

While the character, Katie, is beautifully drawn, for me the main character in the novel is the city itself. I could smell the stench from the river Liffey. I could see the swans gliding along the Grand Canal near Percy Place. I could hear the screech of the trams and the shouts of the children playing their rope games in the streets. Georgian doorways and ornate fanlights and sash windows populate each page and I shivered in the cold outer hallway of the Crilly family home despite the sunshine outside. I had not realised Parnell Square used to be called Rutland Square or, when the Georgian squares were being designed and built, that certain occupations were prevented from living in them. While it’s obvious that a lot of research has gone into this novel, it wears the research lightly, intertwining it seamlessly with the story.

Overall, I enjoyed this book very much. It draws you in gently into a convincing world. The story brought the Rising alive for me in its impact on a small group of people whom I came to care about. The turmoil of those few days is communicated well at the individual level and also on a broader level in terms of where it fits into historical events. I would like to learn more about these people and would welcome a continuation of their story.

Nicola Garrett

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