After The Fall - Charity Norman
In the quiet of a New Zealand winter's night, a rescue helicopter is sent to airlift a five-year-old boy with severe internal injuries. He's fallen from the upstairs veranda of an isolated farmhouse, and his condition is critical. At first, Finn's fall looks like a horrible accident; after all, he's prone to sleepwalking. Only his frantic mother, Martha McNamara, knows how it happened. And she isn't telling. Not yet. Maybe not ever.
This is the blurb on the back of ‘After the Fall’ and it drew me in like a bee to nectar…I LOVE stories like this. I love the intrigue, the covers up, the secrets and most of all I love trying to guess what actually happened before the author chooses to reveal it.
The story is told from Martha’s point of view and tells of the decision to uproot her family from England and make the drastic move to New Zealand in order to save themselves for impending disaster. Her five year old twins think it’s a big adventure, her husband, Kit, finally begins to realise his dream as a painter but Sasha, Martha’s 16 year old daughter from a previous relationship, thinks it’s the worst decision in the world. Of course, what teenager wouldn’t dislike being taken away from friends, a boyfriend, an established life? So I will admit to thinking Sasha was nothing but a big drama queen. Especially with the added story line of who Sasha’s real father is, I felt that her character milked it for all it was worth and had it not been such a shock when it was revealed who he was, I think I would have lost patience with that particular theme. However, Charity Norman has written her character well, and she is an integral part of the story.
The book starts at the scene of the accident, 5 year old Finn falling from the balcony and being airlifted to hospital. Martha coming under immediate suspicion and being faced with inquiries from New Zealand social services. Kit mysteriously not around.
We are then taken back to before the accident with the occasional chapter in the present day explaining how things currently stand with Finn’s condition.
The thing I really enjoyed about this book was its total unpredictability. I thought I had a handle on the story and where it was leading, and was feeling slightly disappointed that it was turning out to be quite tame, when there was a sudden dark twist, and then another, and then another. None of my theories on what actually happened were even close in the end. I had to really fight the urge to flick to the back page and find out the ending!!
I also enjoyed the detail Charity Norman included in the book, I liked that she revealed small colloquialisms, for example, a Smoko Hut being a place for a tea break and her descriptions of the environment made me long to see it for myself! Martha is a superb lead character, you really feel for her and can see how she is always trying to make the right decisions for her family, seemingly with disastrous consequences.
I can always tell the depth I have engaged with a story by how much I cry at the end (no, really) and I wept buckets when all was revealed. I wanted so much for all to come right in the end for this family.
A really enjoyable read. I have seen Charity Norman being compared to Jodi Picoult and I would agree. If you like her novels then you should certainly give this one a try. Thumbs up from me!
Review by the wonderful Duck Egg Book Club Editor, Jessica McGlynn.
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