The story concerns the quiet and self-effacing Eleanor, as she journeys through a traumatic period of her life. Having become a teenage wife and mother, all she has known is devotion to her own invalid mother, her children and her husband. Her 13 year old twins sometimes seem to be more worldly-wise than her. She's suppressed her own needs and desires so completely that she seems almost without personality. As such, she is quite difficult to relate to intimately and the reader has to get to know her in the same way as the other characters. Nevertheless, it's impossible to dislike her. Like all Allan's characters, Eleanor is complex and real.
Eleanor's husband, Trevor is a rather devious, self-serving man; I suspected and disliked him from the outset and at no time did he redeem himself. Yet he was no less real - in fact I felt I knew him all too well! Having sold Eleanor's family home in Battersea for a substantial price, Trevor moves his family to the country to enjoy 'clean air, green fields, a house with a proper garden and a driveway'. Trevor selfishly pursues his new career and indulgences, while Eleanor tries to fit in with her sophisticated neighbours and sort out the marathon renovations of the new house. Enter Patrick, the builder, a likeable rogue, whose constant harmless lies make him enigmatic and fascinating and who extends a warm hand of friendship to Eleanor, helping her through her most difficult times.
The village of Downland is peopled with interesting characters, Katherine, Felicity, Elizabeth and their husbands as well as Patrick and the even more mysterious David, to whom Eleanor is secretly drawn. But no one in Downland is quite what they seem, as Eleanor has to discover in often painful ways. This includes her own family and most of all, herself.
Ms Allan writes about seemingly ordinary people in ordinary settings, but, of course, neither is ordinary. The characters are richly drawn in all their complexities, yet grittily realistic and engaging. The settings are carefully painted with the reverence of an artist who has a deep affinity with the countryside.
The story is compellingly told with a well-sustained narrative flow. I found it deeply engrossing and sat up late into the night more than once, unable to put it down. It gathers momentum, like a snowball rolling downhill, hurtling towards its dramatic conclusion. I look forward to reading more from this talented writer and am pleased to bring out all FIVE cute cats to award this book.
And here's a real bonus: FLY OR FALL is on sale at 99p only for a limited time.
Gilli Allan started to write in childhood - a hobby pursued throughout her teenage. Writing was only abandoned when she left home and real life supplanted the fiction. Gilli did not go to Oxford or Cambridge but after just enough exam passes to squeak in, she attended Croydon College of Art.She did not work on any of the broadsheets or in television, but has done a variety of slightly less prestigious jobs. She was a shop assistant in several West End department stores, selling wigs, shoes, children’s clothes and accessories. She has also been a beauty consultant, a bar-maid and did a job with no title which involved spotting American tourists in London and persuading them to go on a free guided-tour that culminated in lunch at the Hilton. There they had to endure a high pressure pitch selling real-estate in Florida! Gilli worked longest, and most happily, in her dream job as an illustrator in advertising.
She only started writing again when at home with her young son, Tom, and her first two completed novels, Just Before Dawn and Desires & Dreams, were immediately accepted by a mainstream publisher. But the publisher ceased to trade and after a period in the wilderness, Gilli went independent. TORN, LIFE CLASS and FLY or FALL are all currently available both as Kindle books and in paperback. She also has a short story - Holiday Romance - in the e-edition of the recently published RNA anthology, TRULY, MADLY, DEEPLY.
Gilli has been a school governor, a contributor to local newspapers, and a driving force behind the establishment of a community shop in her village. Still a keen artist, Gilli designs the annual family Christmas card and in 2013, she and her son, Tom Williams, collaborated on a children’s book. He wrote and she illustrated THE TALE of KING HARALD - The Last Viking Adventure, published by British Museum Press to coincide with the ‘Vikings - Life and Legend’ exhibition, which has just opened at the British Museum.
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