BN.com Gift Guide

The Fall: A Novel [NOOK Book]

Overview

Rob Ross is driving home when he hears that his childhood friend Jim Matthewson has fallen to his death in a climbing accident. Rob's decision to turn his car around and make the journey to comfort Jim's widow is the beginning of a journey into the past, back to Rob's youth before he made the pivotal choices that now come back to haunt him.
Simon Mawer skillfully unveils the delicate layers of history in the lives of a group of people connected over the years by camaraderie, ...
See more details below
The Fall: A Novel

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 7.0
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 10.1
  • NOOK HD Tablet
  • NOOK HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK eReaders
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$9.99
BN.com price

Overview

Rob Ross is driving home when he hears that his childhood friend Jim Matthewson has fallen to his death in a climbing accident. Rob's decision to turn his car around and make the journey to comfort Jim's widow is the beginning of a journey into the past, back to Rob's youth before he made the pivotal choices that now come back to haunt him.
Simon Mawer skillfully unveils the delicate layers of history in the lives of a group of people connected over the years by camaraderie, love, competition, and lust. In the shadow of an old love triangle lies the story of another, and as we follow the characters from London during the Blitz to the mountain ranges of the Alps and back to present-day Wales, Mawer reveals how the agonies of the past impinge upon the present.
This is an intelligent, thought-provoking love story by a bril-liant, masterful novelist.
Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times
''Dramatic'' is certainly the adjective of choice for The Fall, Simon Mawer's fine new novel about mountaineering. The book takes as its starting point the horrible accident of its title, with James Matthewson, a renowned but now middle-aged mountain climber, tumbling from the face of a Welsh cliff that he should not have been attempting by himself. He dies almost instantly, leaving behind a widow, an estranged best friend and a number of mysteries, among them why he would be climbing such a difficult route without ropes or a helmet. Could the veteran climber have been trying to commit suicide? It's a question for which the bulk of the novel is designed to provide an answer. — Gary Krist
Publishers Weekly
Uncommonly wise and painstakingly crafted, this tale of struggles on personal and physical slopes ranges from present-day Wales to blitz-era London, tracking two generations of tangled love affairs. It begins with the death of acclaimed mountain climber Jamie Matthewson near his home in craggy North Wales. When Jamie's childhood friend Rob Dewar goes to visit Matthewson's widow, Ruth, the novel steps backwards in time to recount the story of Jamie's relationship with Rob and Ruth. From their childhood onwards, Jamie and Rob share a love of mountain climbing, of the sheer danger involved in it. The two men are rivals as athletes but also as lovers, as they compete for the love of many women-from Ruth, a drifting free-spirited artist who eventually marries Jamie, to Jamie's mother herself. As Ruth's relationship with Jamie evolves, it does not necessarily cool with Rob, straining the friendship between the two. Mawer gradually reveals that the complications began before either Jamie or the narrator were born, describing the kindling of romance between Jamie's father, himself a mountain climber, Rob's mother and Jamie's mother in England during the heady years of World War II. Although the mountain-climbing descriptions sometimes threaten to overpower the novel with their intensity, their metaphorical significance always wins out. Mawer has created characters and situations that overflow with truly believable pain and exhilaration, and he endows the narrative with a surging energy that pushes the book forward, all the way to an end which, like the final line of a haiku, casts a startling light on everything that came before it. (Jan. 7) Forecast: Mawer has made a name for himself as a brainy, broad-canvas novelist (Mendel's Dwarf; The Gospel of Judas). This quieter effort may attract a few mountain-climbing aficionados in addition to Mawer loyalists. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
A middle-aged man's fall on a foolhardy climb is the prelude to this lovely two-generational love story. The death of famed English climber Jamie Matthewson, son of the legendary Guy Matthewson, who died high on a Himalayan mountain, draws closest friend and former climbing partner Rob Dewar back to the climbing community and opens the way to startling revelations involving the two men and their families. Mawer (Mendel's Dwarf; The Gospel of Judas) explores seduction, betrayal, and love in its various aspects in scenes ranging from the horrific bombing of 1940s London to breathtaking, perilous climbs. As a backdrop, climbing comes to serve both as an analogy for and an escape from life. Rob, Jamie, and the people they love are exceptionally well drawn, and their story is as absorbing as it is accomplished. For all fiction collections.-Michele Leber, formerly with Fairfax Cty. P.L., VA Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
British author of the extraordinary Mendel's Dwarf (1998) returns with a much more ordinary tale of star-crossed love. The Welsh Guy Matthewson is widely known as a climber by the time the considerably younger Diana Sheridan-on a walking tour with friends-meets the famous man, goes climbing alone with him, stays overnight in his hotel-and falls hopelessly in love, as he does with her. But there are problems. It's 1940, Diana will soon be a nurse in London, and not only does Guy face the trials of being a conscientious objector (though he switches later), but he's married-to a German wife who left him two years before and returned to Germany with their young daughter. Diana can't believe he'll ever be free to marry her, and so ends the affair (by letter) when she finds she's pregnant-and never tells him that she aborted their own infant daughter before entering her loveless and short-lived marriage with a doctor. She doesn't even tell him about it when they happen to meet once more, after the war-Guy by now married to the good-looking Meg, as sexually loose as Diana is contained-and have a last passionate night of true love. All of this is told in flashbacks from the 1960s and later, in a story about the intimate friendship between Diana's son, Rob Dewar, and Meg's son, Jamie Matthewson. The two will climb together-Jamie will go on later to achieve truly enormous international fame-until an accident takes Rob off the Alpine faces and puts him into the art gallery business. Years pass, then decades-and only with the deadly fall alluded to by the title will past mysteries finally be revealed. Nothing new, really (the secret kept by one generation from another may not satisfy wholly once it'srevealed), but well and skillfully done: the landscapes are wonderful, the history sharp, the climbing scenes awesome.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780316073790
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
  • Publication date: 5/30/2009
  • Sold by: Hachette Digital, Inc.
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 562,417
  • File size: 504 KB

Read an Excerpt

The Fall


By Simon Mawer

Back Bay Books

Simon Mawer
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-316-73559-0


Chapter One

The weather was good for the Snowdon area. The rain had held off all day, and there was enough of a breeze to keep the rock dry. Damp could not have been a contributory factor. There was even the occasional shaft of sunlight cutting down through the varied cloud to brighten up the cwm, but no direct sunlight on the fluted walls and boilerplate slabs of the crag itself. This is a north face.

Someone shouted: "Hey, look!" It was one of the group of walkers. Climbers would not have made a noise about it. Someone shouted and stood up and pointed toward the East Buttress. "Hey, look at him!"

There was a lone figure climbing. He was about twenty feet off the ground. The man who shouted had been watching for a little while, but at first it had not been clear that the figure was truly alone until he, the climber, had reached twenty feet up the great, blank central wall of the East Buttress. The wall is a smooth, slightly curving sheet of rhyolite, a beaten metallic shield that, to inexpert eyes, appears unclimbable.

"Look at 'im. Bloody idiot or what?" "Isn't he doing Great Wall?" "No ropes, nothing. He's bloody soloing."

The solo climber on the Great Wall moved quite smoothly up the shallow groove that gives the line of the route. He bridged easily, his feet braced outward to make an arrowhead of his body. You could see his hands going up on the rock above him, imagine his fingers touching the rock and finding the flakes and nicks that are what pass for holds on that kind of route. Mere unevenness. What the climbers of the past would have called rugosities. They all seemed to have had the benefit of a classical education. Not the present breed. "Thin," the modern climber might say. Not much else.

"He seems to know what he's doing," the walker called to his companions.

"He's not wearing a helmet," one of the others remarked. The walkers were all watching now, some of them standing, others sitting on rocks - the grass was still damp - with their heads craned back to see.

The climber moved up. There was a catlike grace about his movements, a certain slickness, a feeling that, perched as he was above nothing at all and holding nothing at all, he was secure in what he did. He was now flylike, plastered across the center of the gray blankness, laying away on a rib that he had discovered, reaching up for a farther hold, bridging wide and stretching up with his right arm. He was actually feeling for a piton that had been there for the last thirty-seven years, one of those bits of climbing archaeology that you find in the mountains: a peg, placed there from a rappel one wet and windy day in the spring of 1962. The peg is oxidized, but smoothed by the numerous (not too numerous) hands that have grabbed it thankfully over the years. It will be there for many years yet, but not forever. Not even the cliff is forever.

"Look!" A gasp from the watchers, a movement up on the cliff face as the lone climber made a smooth succession of moves and reached the peg and made height above it.

"What happens if he slips?" one of the walkers, a young girl, asked.

A man's voice spoke: "He's dead." It brought a hush to the party. They had been watching the thing as entertainment; abruptly it had been presented to them as a matter of life and death. "Who is he?" another of the party asked. There was a clear sense that this unknown climber, this figure of flesh and bone and blood and brain, must be someone. "A bloody idiot."

After a pause-resting? Was it possible to be resting on that vertical and hostile face?-the man had begun to move once more. The remainder of the wall soared up above him to where safety was represented by a thin diagonal terrace. There was a hint of grass up there, a faint green mustache to break the monotony of gray. It was still far above him, but it seemed to signify safety. His body swayed and moved up, his feet touching rock with something of the assurance, something of the habitual skill and poise of a dancer. You could see that he had fair hair. Not much else about him. An anonymous performer on a Welsh crag, sometime after noon on a dry and blustery day. Who was he? And then he fell.

There was some argument later whether it was he who shouted. Someone certainly shouted. It may have been one of the walking party; it may have been one of the pair on White Slab, looking across from the first stance right out in space, way over to the right on the other buttress. There were no specific words - just a cry of surprise.

He fell and there was something leaden and inevitable about the fall. After the grace and agility of the ascent, the dull fact of gravity and weight. A sudden sharp acceleration. Thirty-two feet per second faster every second. About three seconds. And then he hit the broken slope at the foot of the wall, rolled a bit, and stopped.

People got to their feet and ran, scrambled, slithered up the slopes. A pair of climbers on another part of the crag began to fix a rappel rope. One of the girls in the walking party had begun to weep. Despite the hurry, no one really wanted to get there. Of course they didn't. But when they did, quite absurdly they found that he was still alive, unconscious but alive. And they were surprised to discover that he wasn't some reckless youth, the kind that has no respect for the traditions of the place, the kind that doesn't care a damn about doing anything so bloody stupid as soloing a route as hard as the Great Wall - he was middle-aged. Lean, tough, weather-beaten complexion (bruised horrendously, his jaw displaced raggedly to one side), middle-aged. Bleeding from his mouth and one ear. His limbs were arranged anyhow, like those of a rag doll tossed casually out of a window to land on the grass below.

Someone crouched over him and felt for a pulse in his broken neck. One of the walkers was on his mobile phone calling the police. Others just stood by helplessly. The pulse was there for a moment beneath the middle finger of the would-be rescuer, and then it faded away. He died as they stood and watched.

I was driving home when I heard the news. I was somewhere on that winding nightmare of motorway and expressway and overpass that crosses and recrosses the city of Birmingham: ribbons of lights stretching away into the gathering dusk, the long necklaces of housing estates, the pendant jewels of factories and warehouses. Design without intention; a strange sort of beauty without any aesthetic to support it. Over it all, the traffic moved in columns toward Liverpool and Manchester, toward London and the southeast.

The radio was on, and the story was big enough to make the national news on a day when the news wasn't special, the murders a mere one or two, the rapes only half a dozen and date rapes at that, the peace negotiations stalled, the elections indecisive, misery and poverty quotidian. Noted climber killed in fall, said a disembodied and indifferent voice from the radio, and I knew at once who it was even before I heard the name. Curious, that. I knew it would be him.

Jim Matthewson, who lived in North Wales, had spent a lifetime tackling the highest and hardest climbs in the world but died after falling from a local crag where he had first cut his teeth over thirty years ago ...

I decelerated and pulled into the slow lane behind an articulated truck, like my driving? a sign on the tailgate asked; it gave a phone number, just in case you didn't. The next exit was for the A? and North Wales, and I let the car slow down and drift leftward down the slip road. The newsman was talking about helicopters and multiple fractures and dead on arrival. I hadn't really made a decision, no conscious decision anyway, but that was just like it had been with climbing - movement being everything, movement being a kind of thought, body and mind fused into one, the mind reduced perhaps, but the body exalted surely. Nowadays in the ordinary round of life there was separation of mind and body: but in those days it had been different.

As I dialed home, the radio news had become a broken oil pipeline in West Africa. Villagers had sabotaged the thing in order to collect the crude oil that spilled out. The phone rang in the hallway of my house while West African villagers ranted on about the corruption of the government and the high prices they were forced to pay for what was flowing for free through the metal tube just outside their village. You had to see their point of view.

I'd hoped to get one of the girls, but of course it was Eve's voice that answered: "Hello?" "It's me."

"Where on earth are you?" The overemphasis in her voice. "Have you heard the news?" "What news?"

"On the radio. Jamie. He's dead." An eloquent silence. How can silence on the end of a telephone line be eloquent? But it was. "How?"

"No idea. A fall, that's what it said. Look, I'm somewhere around Wolverhampton. I'm going." "Going?" "To Wales."

"Wales?" A note of incredulity. "Where will you stay? For goodness' sake, Allie's got to go to choir practice this evening. She was relying on you taking her. And you haven't got anything with you."

"That shouldn't be much of a problem. And I reckon I can get a bed at the Center." Another silence. "What's the point?"

"He was a friend. Christ alive, Eve, he was my best friend." It sounded ridiculous, the kind of thing children say. Best friend. Make friends, make friends, never, never break friends. It's girls who do that kind of thing, mainly. Boys find it all a bit embarrassing, don't they?

"And now he's dead. And you haven't seen him for years. What's wrong with a letter, or a phone call or something? You don't have to go running to the rescue like a Boy Scout, for God's sake. And anyway, there's no one to rescue." "There's Ruth."

"I know there's Ruth. And how do you propose to rescue her-?"

There was one of those awkward pauses, made more awkward by the fact that we were just voices, stripped of face or feature. We spoke over each other: "Rob."

"Eve." "Go on. What were you going to say?" "No you." "When ..." "Yes?" "When will you be back?"

Her question hung in the balance. "A day or two," I said finally. "Time to sort things out. Time to see Caroline. That kind of thing. Eve ..." "Yes?"

"Give the girls a kiss from me. Tell Allie I'm sorry about the choir. Next week." "Is that a promise?"

It was hard to read her tone. Hard to read mine too, I guess. "Look, I'm parked on the hard shoulder. I'd better be going. I'll give you a ring later. Love to the girls. And to you." "Yes," she said, but she didn't sound convinced.

Birmingham is something of a border territory. You wouldn't think it to look at the place, but the fact is that beyond Birmingham you are quite suddenly out of the embracing clasp of London, that disproportionate city, that selfish city that wants everything and everybody, that steals almost the whole of the south of England to itself and looks with covetous eyes on the rest. But beyond the lights of Birmingham there are the Marches, where blood was spilled, and the thin ribbon of the A5 that leads to Wales. London suddenly seems far away. I drove into the gathering dusk, past familiar names and familiar landmarks: Telford, Shrewsbury. Ahead there were black hills against the sky. Offa's Dyke was signposted for tourists. At Oswestry came the first hint of a change of language and landscape, chirk and newbridge giving way to pentre and cefn-mawr, and the road abruptly turning westward and finding a narrow gorge into the hills, and there was the sign to Llangollen, which is the farthest many outsiders get into the narrow, crabbed, secretive land that is Wales. The walls of the valley crowded in on the car. Headlights cut into the thick Welsh evening and spotlighted Celtic names now-cerrig-y-drudion, pentrefoelas, capel garmon. With the window down I could sense the difference, that sharp scent of meltwater, the hostile chill of height, the snatch of cold mountain air at the lungs.

It all came back as I drove: an awful muddle of memory and forgetting. Eve and the children suddenly seemed very far away and in another country, a safe, literal place where nothing is left to chance and no one takes risks. But this was different: this was a haunted landscape, trampled over by the ghosts of the past. Ahead was the familiar silhouette of the mountain that was most familiar of all - Yr Wyddfa, Snowdon. Overhead were the stars, Orion setting in the wake of the sun, a planet - Jupiter I guessed - gleaming down on the sublunary world with a baleful eye. One of our routes had been called Jupiter. I could even recall the words in the guidebook: Dinas Mot: start to the right of Gandalf, Extremely Severe. I remembered Jamie floating up on invisible holds while I sweated after him on the blunt end of the rope. I felt the sweat now in memory, even after thirty years.

I turned off the main road into a high valley. A long, narrow lake was pressed into the darkness of the mountains like an ingot of silver. At the only lighted building, I pulled the car over and parked. A warm and soporific atmosphere of tradition greeted me as I pushed open the door of the bar. There was brown wooden paneling and an old hemp rope in a glass case and the signatures of history written across the ceiling: Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary, Tom Bourdillon and Charles Evans. And another name scrawled somewhere there as well: Guy Matthewson.

I ordered a beer. At the bar two men were talking in low and authoritative terms about the accident. They were tweedy and pipe-smoking. This hotel and all its traditions had always been a different world from ours, a parallel universe of breeches and heavy boots and pipes. We had been down at the Padarn Lake in Llanberis. We were jeans and canvas rock boots that they used to call PAs, and ciggies. Spliffs sometimes. A world away. "What can you expect?" they were asking each other. "These days people have no respect for the mountains. Of course, his father was one of the old school ..."

There was a phone in the corner. I found the number in the phone book, and when my call was answered it was Jamie speaking. It was a shock to hear his voice: "This is the Matthewson Mountain Center," he said. "We can't answer at the moment, but if you leave your name and number after the beep, we'll get back to you as soon as we can."

I didn't leave a message. I finished my beer and left the customers to their complacency.

The road from the hotel wound uphill and over the head of the pass. The lights of a youth hostel loomed out of the blackness. There might have been a trace of snow on the hillside behind the building. On the left, the bulk of Crib Goch rose up to block out the stars.

Continues...


Excerpted from The Fall by Simon Mawer Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 5 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(2)

4 Star

(3)

3 Star

(0)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(0)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 21, 2014

    Read this

    Mawer is a very good writer

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 11, 2010

    Great writing makes up for some weak characterizations

    I'm fascinated both by mountain climbing (well, reading about it) and Britain during World War II, so this book was a slam dunk for me. The Fall jumps between contemporary England and Wales and World War II, as we meet climbers Jamie and Rob and their mothers. Rob travels to Wales after Jamie's death and reflects on their lives; Mawer weaves that story with the story of their mothers, Meg and Diana, during WWII.

    The sections about Meg and Diana in London during the war really brought that period to life for me in a way that other books and movies haven't been able to. The day-to-day realities of the Blitz were there as an organic part of the story, not as a lesson.

    Mawer also handles the mountain climbing sections well. I've read a number of books about climbing, and again, he writes the sections in such a way that brings the experience of climbing to life. I admit that I have a tendency to skim over long descriptions of things like climbing, but I didn't do that with this book.

    There are some weak aspects. Mawer draws some characters very clearly, but others--major characters--remain a mystery. Though I enjoy that he leaves a lot of things ambiguous, there are some character actions that are completely lacking. On initial read, it's easy to ignore, but deeper inspection of character motivations leave the reader wondering.

    The plot, also, is nothing particularly new. The bringing together of mountain climbing and WWII may be new, but the stories of Meg, Diana, Rob, and Jamie are nothing you haven't seen before. And the end of the story hardly comes as a surprise.

    But it's all so well written, it doesn't matter.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    complex relationship drama

    Rob Dewar is driving home to his family when he hears on the radio about the death of his friend Jamie Matthewson from a mountain climbing fall. Though he and Jamie had not spoken in years, Rob heads to Wales to learn what went wrong and to provide comfort to his buddy¿s widow Ruth. Rob begins learning about his deceased friend, the man¿s family, and his own parents, more than he probably wants to know. He finds out that Jamie¿s father Guy and Diana Sheridan fell in love and shared a night together in 1940. However, while Guy is a conscientious objector married to a German wife, Diana heads to London to work as a nurse. She ends their affair and aborts the fetus. She marries, but that relationship fails as Guy has her love. After World War II ends, Guy and Diana meet, but though she is free he is now married to Meg. Still they share one last night of love. The historical tidbits bring alive the 1940s and 1960s. The characters are three-dimensional and are very complex. The story line is richly textured as readers observe how star-crossed lovers survive though not with one another. With all that going and Simon Mawer¿s usual strong prose, the novel falls a bit short because the secret once revealed seems insignificant in the scheme of life. Still though not quite a MENDEL'S DWARF, THE FALL displays the talent of Mr. Mawer to tell a tale that will provide much pleasure to fans of complex relationship dramas. Harriet Klausner

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 16, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted September 1, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)