I can see from my stats that over 900 of you looked in during the past week, which was given over to celebrating the Accent Press release of Gilli Allan's excellent novel Fly or Fall. This is one of the best stories I've read in recent months, so here's what I thought of it:
I was delighted to receive a review copy of Fly or Fall, since I have thoroughly enjoyed previous titles from this author, whose writing style is a little reminiscent of the excellent Deborah Moggach. What an engrossing story this is - Gilli Allan just gets better and better in my opinion.
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 hisfamily 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. Undoubtedly she deserves all five cute cats!
About Gilli Allan
Gilli Allan started to write in childhood, a hobby only abandoned when real life supplanted the fiction. Gilli didn’t go to Oxford or Cambridge but, after just enough exam passes to squeak in, she attended Croydon Art College.
She didn’t work on any of the broadsheets, in publishing or television. Instead she was a shop assistant, a beauty consultant and a barmaid before landing her dream job as an illustrator in advertising. It was only when she was at home with her young son that Gilli began writing seriously. Her first two novels were quickly published, but when her publisher ceased to trade, Gilli went independent.
Over the years, Gilli has been a school governor, a contributor to local newspapers, and a driving force behind the community shop in her Gloucestershire village. Still a keen artist, she designs Christmas cards and has begun book illustration. Gilli is particularly delighted to have recently gained a new mainstream publisher - Accent Press. FLY OR FALL is the second book to be published in the three book deal.
Fly or Fall - The Blurb:
Wife and mother, Nell, fears change, but it is forced upon her by her manipulative husband, Trevor. Finding herself in a new world of flirtation and casual infidelity, her principles are undermined and she’s tempted. Should she emulate the behaviour of her new friends or stick with the safe and familiar?
But everything Nell has accepted at face value has a dark side. Everyone - even her nearest and dearest - has been lying. She’s even deceived herself. The presentiment of disaster, first felt as a tremor at the start of the story, rumbles into a full blown earthquake. When the dust settles, nothing is as it previously seemed. And when an unlikely love blossoms from the wreckage of her life, she believes it is doomed.
The future, for the woman who feared change, is irrevocably altered. But has she been broken, or has she transformed herself?
You can purchase Fly or Fall by clicking here
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