Fallen Skies

( 37 )

Overview

Can a family's mannered traditions and cool emotions erase the horrors of war from a young couple's past?

Now back in print from New York Times bestselling author Philippa Gregory, Fallen Skies takes readers to post-World War I England in a suspenseful story about the marriage of a wealthy war hero and an aspiring singer he barely knows.

Lily Valance is determined to forget the horrors of the war by throwing herself into the decadent pleasures ...

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Fallen Skies: A Novel

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Overview

Can a family's mannered traditions and cool emotions erase the horrors of war from a young couple's past?

Now back in print from New York Times bestselling author Philippa Gregory, Fallen Skies takes readers to post-World War I England in a suspenseful story about the marriage of a wealthy war hero and an aspiring singer he barely knows.

Lily Valance is determined to forget the horrors of the war by throwing herself into the decadent pleasures of the 1920s and pursuing her career as a music hall singer. When she meets Captain Stephen Winters, a decorated veteran, she's immediately drawn to his wealth and status. And Stephen, burdened by his guilt over surviving the Flanders battlefields where so many soldiers perished, sees the possibility of forgetting his anguish in Lily, but his family does not approve.

Lily marries Stephen, only to discover that his family's façade of respectability conceals a terrifying combination of repression, jealousy and violence. When Stephen's terrors merge dangerously close with reality, the truth of what took place in the mud and darkness brings him and all who love him to a terrible reckoning.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

After losing her father in the Great War, working-class girl Lily Pears becomes chorus girl Lily Valance to help support her widowed mother in Gregory's moody 1920s historical. When her dreams of being a featured singer in a dance-hall revue are interrupted by her mother's death, Lily accepts a marriage proposal from Stephen Winters, a regular at the stage door. Stephen, a reluctant but decorated WWI enlistee still wakes up screaming from the horrors he witnessed in the war and hopes marriage to the bubbly Lily will dispel his terror. But Lily's entrée into the gloomy Winters family home saps her cheer, and singing onstage becomes her only joy. Predating her popular Tudor series, this novel (originally published in the U.K. in 1994 and being released for the first time stateside) attempts to give equal time to both halves of its unhappy couple with mixed results; the domestic misery and foiled longings will be familiar to fans of Gregory's Boleyn work, but even if this is narrower in scope, it still has plenty of power. (Dec.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781416593140
  • Publisher: Touchstone
  • Publication date: 12/2/2008
  • Edition description: Original
  • Pages: 528
  • Sales rank: 314,652
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Philippa Gregory is the author of several bestselling novels, including The Other Boleyn Girl, and is a recognized authority on women’s history. Her Cousins’ War novels are the basis for the critically acclaimed Starz miniseries The White Queen. She studied history at the University of Sussex and received a PhD from the University of Edinburgh. She welcomes visitors to her website, PhilippaGregory.com.

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    1. Hometown:
      Yorkshire, England
    1. Date of Birth:
      January 9, 1954
    2. Place of Birth:
      Nairobi, Kenya, East Africa
    1. Education:
      B.A. in history, Sussex University, 1982; Ph.D., 18th-century popular fiction, Edinburgh, 1984
    2. Website:

Introduction

This reading group guide includes suggested questions that are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.

Questions for Discussion

1. Discuss the D. H. Lawrence quote from Lady Chatterley's Lover that opens Fallen Skies. How does this epigraph relate to the novel's title? How have the skies fallen for Stephen and Lily?

2. Stephen is first attracted to Lily because she reminds him of the time before the war. "She looks like there had never been a war" (page 4). He thinks she will help him forget the atrocities he witnessed and committed. Why do you think his marriage to Lily fails to clear his conscience and erase his nightmares? Were his expectations of her unrealistic?

3. "A solitary rebel, [Lily] pretended that the war, which overshadowed her childhood and drained it of joy, did not exist" (page 34). Do you think Lily's efforts to ignore the war and its aftermath helped her to survive difficult times or failed to prepare her for reality?

4. Coventry and Rory are literally silenced as a result of their wartime experiences. Discuss each man's muteness and eventual recovery. What do you think helped each man to reclaim his ability to speak?

5. Does Stephen's relationship with his brother, Christopher, seem to surpass sibling rivalry? How has Stephen let his envy become completely out of control? Do you think Muriel and Rory played any part in exacerbating the tension between their two sons?

6. Discuss the way marriage is portrayed in the novel. Was there evidence of any happy unions? What areyour feelings about the divorce laws and the understanding regarding sexual relations between husband and wife? How do you think Lily's story may have developed if the novel took place today?

7. Do you think Charlie's decision to not marry Lily because of his injury (page 102) was a chivalrous one? Do you think they could have been happy together without lovemaking and children? What do you think Charlie could have done to redeem himself once Lily married Stephen?

8. Discuss Lily's reaction to her mother's death (page 125) and then, later, her reaction to her baby's disappearance. Do you think she was hysterical? How do the two events act as bookends to her relationship with Stephen? How has she grown and matured in the interim?

9. Discuss the beliefs about sex among the upper class in the novel. Muriel claims that "A lady does not enjoy it.... Bad girls are the same as prostitutes" (page 153). Stephen is also pleased that Lily seems to dislike sex. How do these beliefs affect Lily and Stephen's marriage? How does the power dynamic develop given this understanding?

10. Do you think that what Charlie and Lily shared could be considered an affair? In the absence of physical union, does a strong emotional connection still constitute infidelity? Where should the line be drawn?

11. "People live on islands...alienated from each other by a thousand rules of conduct" (page 450). How has a strict adherence to good manners affected some of the characters in the novel? When has unflinching conduct aided them? When has it hurt them? How did Lily learn to use it to her advantage?

12. Both Charlie and Stephen came out of the war forever altered. Whose ailment do you think was more unendurable? Are they comparable? Is either man capable of living a fulfilling life? Do you agree with John Pascoe that "perhaps it was easier for those...who had never come home" (page 417)?

13. World War I is sometimes idealized as a battle of suffering by the brightest and best in English society. Gregory's account of the war is far darker and shows English soldiers as responsible for an atrocity.

14. What does the novel gain from this rejection of a romantic view of war? Do we as readers learn anything?

Philippa Gregory is the New York Times bestselling author of several books, including The Other Boleyn Girl and The Boleyn Inheritance. A writer and broadcaster for radio and television, she lives in England. She welcomes visitors and messages at her website, www.philippagregory.com.

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Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide includes suggested questions that are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.

Questions for Discussion

1. Discuss the D. H. Lawrence quote from Lady Chatterley's Lover that opens Fallen Skies. How does this epigraph relate to the novel's title? How have the skies fallen for Stephen and Lily?

2. Stephen is first attracted to Lily because she reminds him of the time before the war. "She looks like there had never been a war" (page 4). He thinks she will help him forget the atrocities he witnessed and committed. Why do you think his marriage to Lily fails to clear his conscience and erase his nightmares? Were his expectations of her unrealistic?

3. "A solitary rebel, [Lily] pretended that the war, which overshadowed her childhood and drained it of joy, did not exist" (page 34). Do you think Lily's efforts to ignore the war and its aftermath helped her to survive difficult times or failed to prepare her for reality?

4. Coventry and Rory are literally silenced as a result of their wartime experiences. Discuss each man's muteness and eventual recovery. What do you think helped each man to reclaim his ability to speak?

5. Does Stephen's relationship with his brother, Christopher, seem to surpass sibling rivalry? How has Stephen let his envy become completely out of control? Do you think Muriel and Rory played any part in exacerbating the tension between their two sons?

6. Discuss the way marriage is portrayed in the novel. Was there evidence of any happy unions? What are your feelings about the divorce laws and the understanding regarding sexual relations between husband and wife? How do you think Lily's story may have developed if the novel took place today?

7. Do you think Charlie's decision to not marry Lily because of his injury (page 102) was a chivalrous one? Do you think they could have been happy together without lovemaking and children? What do you think Charlie could have done to redeem himself once Lily married Stephen?

8. Discuss Lily's reaction to her mother's death (page 125) and then, later, her reaction to her baby's disappearance. Do you think she was hysterical? How do the two events act as bookends to her relationship with Stephen? How has she grown and matured in the interim?

9. Discuss the beliefs about sex among the upper class in the novel. Muriel claims that "A lady does not enjoy it.... Bad girls are the same as prostitutes" (page 153). Stephen is also pleased that Lily seems to dislike sex. How do these beliefs affect Lily and Stephen's marriage? How does the power dynamic develop given this understanding?

10. Do you think that what Charlie and Lily shared could be considered an affair? In the absence of physical union, does a strong emotional connection still constitute infidelity? Where should the line be drawn?

11. "People live on islands...alienated from each other by a thousand rules of conduct" (page 450). How has a strict adherence to good manners affected some of the characters in the novel? When has unflinching conduct aided them? When has it hurt them? How did Lily learn to use it to her advantage?

12. Both Charlie and Stephen came out of the war forever altered. Whose ailment do you think was more unendurable? Are they comparable? Is either man capable of living a fulfilling life? Do you agree with John Pascoe that "perhaps it was easier for those...who had never come home" (page 417)?

13. World War I is sometimes idealized as a battle of suffering by the brightest and best in English society. Gregory's account of the war is far darker and shows English soldiers as responsible for an atrocity.

14. What does the novel gain from this rejection of a romantic view of war? Do we as readers learn anything?

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 37 )
Rating Distribution

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(10)

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(10)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 37 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 16, 2009

    A different side of Phillippa Gregory

    The overall development of the characters was well played out. I felt like I knew how each and every character was thinking in certain situations. However, the plot and pace of the book was rather slow. Compared to the other Gregory books, Fallen Skies did not have the riveting speed as the others. Definately worth the read though.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 17, 2011

    Disappointing!

    Normally, I enjoy any tale written by Philippa Gregory, and fly through the pages while enjoying her storycraft and tale weaving. I haven't made it through more than a couple of chapters in this book, although it is a historical period I have normally enjoyed. I abhor the language used by the WWI veterans as they refer to women--it may be historically correct in the view of those, especially in what was considered the aristocracy--but I found the storyline and dialogue very misogenistic.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 23, 2013

    Fallen

    Ok.

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 13, 2012

    Ponca

    Name: Ponca Gender: male Rank: Alpha Male Description: dark brown with yellow eyes. Mate: none

    0 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 5, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Dramatic

    Fallen Skies is different from some of Ms. Gregory's other books about the royals that I have read. I have really enjoyed this author and shes actually becoming one of my favorites. This story moves at a very steady, but slow pace and has wonderful character development and depth. Many parts in the book are disturbing but I thought it was all relevant to the characters, time and place when this was all happening. Overall a great read, I would have liked a little more information towards the end, but it was enough to satisfy my curiosity. Ms. Gregory does not disappoint.

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  • Posted March 27, 2011

    Loved it

    I really enjoyed this book. I love this author. I loved the time period in which it's set and the author's ability to paint such a vivid picture of these characters and their lives. I finished it very quickly because it was such an engrossing story.

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  • Posted June 3, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Great Story

    I loved this book. It was very good, and the ending took me by surprise. There were some parts of the story that were slow moving, and took a while to get into, but once in it I couldn't stop reading. Phillipa Gregory is one of the best historical writers I have ever read. Her stories make it seem like you are there with the characters.

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  • Posted March 20, 2010

    Disappointing

    I love Philippa Gregory's historical fiction so bought this book based on that. It was work to continue reading all the way to the end; it just didn't engage me like her other books have. I finished it, but had already figured out what was going to happen at the end.

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  • Posted December 14, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    UGH > > > FRUSTRATION

    It may have just been me, however the beginning of the book seemed slightly slow in the "get go". However, once i was fully immersed in the wonderful writing style of Ms. Gregory i was genuinely hooked! Fallen Skies had so many dramatic twists and turns and heartbreaking moments that i couldn't wait until i had reached the final pages where everything would be perfectly and harmoniously dealt with. I had fantasies of how this person would do this and the climatic moment would be so perfect because Gregory had written it and I have always loved her writing, but soon i was paying attention to the lack of character confrontation paired with the dwindling pages. The climax was spectacularly dramatic as i had hoped however when I had expected all the other strings that had stemmed from that momentous conclusion to be tied I unfairly turned the last page to the story. It ended so abruptly i felt cheated and hurt by that emotional rollercoaster only to be left wondering where my lunch went.

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  • Posted August 11, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I love Philipa but..

    Like the other reviewer, this book did not grab me like her others. Other than this one, I havent yet ventured beyond the boleyn/ elizabethan books. I read 300 pgs one night, and then never touched it again. It was an extremely touching book, and I even cried at a few moments. I suppose I never finished it because the love story was painful to read. Perhaps it was just a hormonal week, but I couldnt bring myself to finish it.

    Although beautifully written, its very VERY slow. I suppose I kept reading that one night because I was waiting for SOMETHING to happen... and it seemed on the brink of occurring for 200 pgs. Its not an exciting book, but now that I think about it, id like to finish it. However, I think for now, im too hooked on Gregory's 16th and 17th century England novels.

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  • Posted July 1, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Slice of Life

    I like reading Phillipa Gregory's books for the slice of life they offer, a picture of what a person's life may have been like during historical periods. This book is set in the 1920s, post WWI, so the details of life during the Roaring 20s are the best part of this story in my opinion. The main character, Lily, is highly likable and innocent and fun-loving, a large contrast to Stephen Winters, the man she marries. The contrast makes the book interesting, though the ending is somewhat predictable. The characters are well-developed and the relationships Lily has with the various people in her life help create a character you root for. I liked this book, but I've enjoyed Miss Gregory's other stories more.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 16, 2011

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    Posted January 13, 2009

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    Posted July 24, 2010

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    Posted December 25, 2008

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    Posted February 12, 2009

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    Posted February 12, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 27, 2010

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    Posted December 2, 2008

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    Posted May 22, 2009

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