Thursday, January 5, 2012

THE FALL OF LIGHT by Niall Williams ✰✰✰✰1/2

Many thanks to Natalie at In Spring it is the Dawn for giving this away on her lovely blog and mailing it all the way from Japan!

Covering a span of years that encompasses the Potato Famine, this is the tale of Francis Foley, his wife Emer, and their four sons, as their lives drift apart and re-converge in 19th century Ireland.

At times I felt that the plot held a few too many coincidences to be veracious, but that is the single factor which kept this book, which I gave four and a half stars, from being a five star read.

The prose itself was laden in pathos, gorgeous.  I fell in love with Niall Williams’ writing in a way I have not fallen in love in quite some time.  The style was absolutely perfect for the subject matter.  It is very seldom that I quote from novels in my reviews, but this time I really want to share:

“He thought of the old man’s boast that their country was bigger than the map-makers had drawn it and he suddenly saw it so.  He saw the vastness of the sea was itself part of that wild country as was its great and million-starred sky and he dropped to his knees there in the sand and felt the despair of loss.  He put his hands together to pray and turned to the constellations that were cold and impassive and falling through the darkness ages away, and, knowing no God, who knew him, he looked to Pegasus in the south and to it prayed the wordless prayers that rose off his soul.”  (page 80)

“He imagined them, those gaunt figures with ghosthood already immanent, their long thin arms holding cradled the bundle of their world, their hunger and frailty, the mewling of their children, the ragged faded worn quality of their spirits as they journeyed homeless toward the impossible idea of home.” (page 224)

A reader who wants a plot that moves quickly towards a crashing climax will not find that here.  This book is carried by luminous wordsmithing and characters that draw you along on their wrenching journey.  For the right reader in the right frame of mind, it is an unforgettable experience, and I highly recommend it.

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