Tracy Chevalier Falling Angels

ISBN 13: 9780007108251

Falling Angels

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9780007108251: Falling Angels

A fashionable London cemetery, January 1901: Two graves stand side by side, one decorated with an oversize classical urn, the other with a sentimental marble angel. Two families, visiting their respective graves on the day after Queen Victoria's death, teeter on the brink of a new era. The Colemans and the Waterhouses are divided by social class as well as taste. They would certainly not have become acquainted had not their two girls, meeting behind the tombstones, become best friends. And, even more unsuitably, become involved with the gravedigger's muddy son.

As the girls grow up, as the new king changes social customs, as a new, forward-thinking era takes wing, the lives and fortunes of the two families become more and more closely intertwined-neighbors in life as well as death.

Against a gas-lit backdrop of social and political history, Tracy Chevalier explores the prejudices and flaws of a changing time. A novel that is at once elegant, daring, original, and compelling, Falling Angels is a splendid follow-up to the book The New York Times called "marvelously evocative" and The Wall Street Journal deemed "triumphant."

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Review:

Set among the sweeping skirts and social upheavals of Edwardian London, Tracy Chevalier's Falling Angels is a meditation on change, loss, and recovery. Her central characters are two young girls of the same age, whose family plots are situated side-by-side in a cemetery modeled on Highgate. Lavinia Waterhouse is respectably middle-class, devoted, like her conventional, doting mother, to the right way to do things, although suspiciously well- schooled in subjects like funerary sculpture and the English practices of mourning. Her friend Maude Coleman comes from a slightly more privileged and free-thinking background. In contrast with Lavinia's mother, Maude's mother Kitty Coleman is well-educated by the standards of the day, and it has made her restless and irritable. But neither her reading, nor her gardening, nor her affair with the somber, high-thinking governor of the cemetery is enough for Kitty. She comes alive only when she discovers the women's suffrage movement, and her devotion to the cause takes her away from Maude in every sense.

Although the point of view shifts between many characters (with even the Coleman's maid and cook getting their say, sometimes unnecessarily), Falling Angels is essentially the children's story, since it is their lives that are most open to change. The narrative spans exactly the years of Edward VII's reign, from the morning after his mother Queen Victoria's death in January 1901 to his own death in May 1910. Chevalier (Girl with a Pearl Earring) deftly uses the nation's dramatically different mourning for these two monarchs to signal the social transformations of the period. Readers at ease with English history will find Falling Angels an unusually subtle novel, with an emotional range that recalls the best of the Edwardian novelists, E.M. Forster, and his quintessential novel of Edwardian manners, Howard's End. --Regina Marler

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Chevalier, Tracy
Published by Dutton / Penguin (2001)
ISBN 10: 0007108257 ISBN 13: 9780007108251
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Tracy Chevalier
Published by Dutton / Penguin (2001)
ISBN 10: 0007108257 ISBN 13: 9780007108251
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