This was a completely surprise review copy so I decided to read it straight away because Before the Fall is to be released on 22nd May 2014 by Mantle and I wanted to get the review up before the publishing date so that you guys have a chance to preorder this wonderful book.
1916. Across the channel, the Great War rages; in London’s East End, with her husband away fighting, Hannah Loxwood struggles to hold everything together. But when Hannah takes a job in a cafe, she discovers a glimpse of freedom away from her needy young children, her spiteful sister and desperately ill father.
While the conflict drags on, Hannah battles with the overwhelming burden of ‘duty’. She has sacrificed so much for a husband who left her behind, a husband who may never come home. Then, when she meets Daniel – thoughtful, intelligent, quietly captivating – Hannah finds herself faced with the most dangerous of temptations.
As the war grips tighter and bombs fall down upon the streets, the stakes for the couple are raised ever higher. Soon Hannah and Daniel will realize just how precarious their happiness is, as their destiny rushes towards them . . .
In many ways a book set against the backdrop of war, in this case the Great War, World War I, is expected to have a certain level of tension and drama and this book does not disappoint on that front. Straight away, the book explores the effects of the war of a variety of different people, exploring relationships and parenthood, illness and health, pride and guilt. These are all things that sometimes the reader comes to expect from a war novel but this book, inspired by a true story, seems to feel all the more real, like there is more at risk and like the fighting in France is just part of it, there is fighting to be done at home too.
The writing style took me a while to get into admittedly; some of the sentences seemed stunted and colloquialisms were sometimes used but there were some passages that were just beautiful and really made me stop to take it in:
Outside the bedroom window, the north wind shrieks. It rifles off the creek and fires dirty rain against the panes. I think that the war is everywhere: in the rain, in the river, in the grey air that we breathe. It is a current that runs through all of us. You can’t escape the current; either you swim with it or you go under.
This writing style really helps with the character building. I found myself getting very attached to certain characters and getting emotional at certain points in the book. The writing really helped to build this world for me as the reader and although it is firmly based in reality, the first person narration had a lot of emotion and thoughts that I assume are fictional.
I loved the way that the area this book is set in, East London, feels like a character in itself because of the descriptions that really bring it to life. Throughout the novel, the time and location that the book is set in seeps into every aspect of the story and is so well developed that you really get caught up in the social conventions of the time and the circumstances that these characters are having to deal with.
This book is undoubtedly tragic and heartfelt, the fact that it is inspired by real events only makes it more poignant. A true picture of life in London during the war and the lengths that a woman had to go to for happiness. I would thoroughly recommend this book and would love to read more by Juliet West.
Goodreads: Before the Fall
PreOrder: Book Depository