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Posted March 5, 2002
Insightful epic nineteenth century Irish family drama
Estate gardener Francis Foley becomes upset with his absentee employer. He sets fire to the manor house and steals a telescope from the estate where he worked. Taking his four sons ranging in age from twelve to nineteen, Francis flees across Ireland. However, fortune fails to shine on the five males as Francis is swept away by the current of a river they were crossing. His traveling companions assume their father died. <P> The four lads continue the journey. After meeting Blath, Tomas joins the New York Fenian movement. Teige becomes a Canadian horse ranch owner, but his love for Elizabeth appears doomed. Finbar marries a Gypsy and soon becomes head of her band. His twin Finan goes to a monastery in France before becoming a missionary in Africa. <P> THE FALL OF LIGHT is an epic nineteenth century family drama that follows the wanderlust of four siblings across the globe. Each subplot is cleverly intended to serve as a lyrical metaphoric symbolism of Ireland. However, though the design is often brilliant and for the most part accomplishes the objective, some subplots seem unnecessary and slow down the adventure. Still fans of sweeping Irish tales will enjoy Niall Williams¿ latest novel. <P>Harriet Klausner
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Posted January 6, 2012
Laden with pathos and gorgeous prose
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.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
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.