Monday, June 29, 2009

Falling Angels by Tracy Chevalier

I sometimes confuse this book with City of Falling Angels, and, in my defense, they both inhabit the same corner of my mind reserved for shadowy, magical writing. Furthermore, the same crumbling graveyard-type angels are apt symbols for both stories. Yet, Falling Angels by Tracy Chevalier is quite different from the Venice book. It is a novel of Edwardian England, childhood friendship, and women's suffrage. Told from several characters' perspectives, the story gives the reader an authentic feel for London during the brief reign of Edward VII. Two young girls, Maude Coleman and Lavinia Waterhouse, meet in a cemetery and start a friendship with draws their very different families together. The cemetery (and the eerie stone figures within) is the dominant setting of the novel, representing the Victorian fascination with death, and by contrast, the new ways of life beginning to emerge in the just-begun 20th century. Chevalier's novel Girl with a Pearl Earring (her take on the origin of the famous Vermeer painting) is better known. I liked Falling Angels better because of its excellent sense of place; Pearl Earring has a well-described setting as well, but I prefer 19th c London to 17th c Holland.

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