Wednesday, January 24, 2007

'The Fall of Light'

by Niall Williams

(Book #4 for 2007; 5th and final book for the From the Stacks Winter Challenge!)
BLURB: The men of the Foley family have always been proud and fearless, fashioned by the harsh, cold elements of their country, and by years of fighting tooth and nail for survival. Their story begins in Ireland, in the difficult years of the early nineteenth century.

The family have lost their home and suffered another loss which proves even more vital – beautiful Emer Foley, wife of Francis, mother to Tomas, Finbar, Finan and the youngest boy, Teige. With nothing to hold them they move on, setting out across Ireland to its western shore, searching for the untenanted land that is to be their new Eden. But Francis Foley is a bitter man, and his flinty soul can only bring destruction. Inevitably the five Foleys are scattered, each to his own road and his own future.
Reading Angela’s Ashes a few years ago completely put me off anything Irish, and even now I was hesitant to start this one. Most likely why it lingered in the stacks for so long and needed the push of a Reading Challenge to finally get it read. Luckily, this book was nothing like the other, and has made huge inroads in redeeming Irish Literature for me.
The story starts with a brief introduction:
“This is a story that has been passed on. It is a story that begins in the time when my great-great-grandfather was a small boy. It has been told and retold for over a hundred and fifty years. It is not a history. As with all such telling each has added his own colouring, imagined and created details that were otherwise perished. These same were then forgotten or elaborated upon and others still added until the story itself became a kind of airy bridgework linking the living and the dead, the teller and those of whom it told.”
What an apt beginning to this story that throughout kept its air of fable and magic, as if told by a fire under the stars, by the gypsies themselves who make an appearance and play a part in this epic tale. Even when I felt it dragged a bit in the middle, I still kept turning the pages, wanting to find out what happens to the various Foley men in their wanderings. A compelling read; it is a simple, yet beautifully-written story about the power of hope and love in the midst of tragedy and despair.

With my recent thoughts of snow, I quite liked the following quote:
“It fell in those mountains in large thick flakes. Each was like a piece of paper, torn fragments of some broken treaty between heaven and earth.”
My Rating: 4/5


  1. I keep seeing this author mentioned--I am going to have to see if I can find some of his books!

  2. I've only read one by this author (As It Is In Heaven) and don't remember too much about it. Guess I wasn't that impressed, but I may have to try The Fall of Light now that I've read your review.

  3. I hadn't really heard of him before reading this book but dovegreyreader has been waxing lyrical about Williams lately, and from what she wrote HERE, Only Say the Word, sounds like the one I'd like to try next. Of course I have a soft spot for books about books!


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