Saturday, November 24, 2012

Kernel's Library: Of Death, Burial, and Gravestones

Falling Angels by Tracy Chevalier Book 00056: Falling Angels by Tracy Chevalier

- Falling Angels

First Publication:
1999 by Dutton

On the Inspiration of Writing Falling Angels

"Several years ago I went on a tour of Highgate Cemetery not far from my flat in London. It was founded in the 1830s and is a classic example of Victorian funerary architecture and landscaping; middle-class families were dying to be buried there! After World War I, however, it went into a state of decline and is now overgrown with trees and ivy, many of its monuments lopsided if not already toppled.

"I fell in love with the decay, the gothic excess, the neglect. More than that: as the guide pointed out yet another symbol of death adorning a grave (it was an hourglass with wings – time flies, all is temporary), I thought, I have got to set a book here. What kind of society was this that celebrated death so explicitly?

"I began doing volunteer work at the cemetery to get to know it better, and read about the history of Victorian cemeteries, mourning etiquette, graveyard monuments, symbolism."

- Nominee of ALA Best Book for Young Adults
- Book Sense 76 Top Ten Selection

Falling Angels is one of the books that I didn't buy, but was given to me as a gift or memorabilia. A friend of mine gave it to me after seeing that I liked books and reading a lot. It is true that things that are given to you have more sentimental value compared to those you bought yourself. You take good care of these things for the fact that they were given to you out of gratitude, friendship and sometimes safekeeping. So to share this blessing here is a short story for you...

The Story

January 1901, the day after Queen Victoria’s death: Two families visit neighboring graves in a fashionable London cemetery. One is decorated with a sentimental angel, the other an elaborate urn. The Waterhouses revere the late Queen and cling to Victorian traditions; the Colemans look forward to a more modern society. To their mutual distaste, the families are inextricably linked when their daughters become friends behind the tombstones. And worse, befriend the gravedigger’s son.

As the girls grow up and the new century finds its feet, as cars replace horses and electricity outshines gas lighting, Britain emerges from the shadows of oppressive Victorian values to a golden Edwardian summer. It is then that the beautiful, frustrated Mrs Coleman makes a bid for greater personal freedom, with disastrous consequences, and the lives of the Colemans and the Waterhouses are changed forever.

A poignant tale of two families brought reluctantly together, Falling Angels is an intimate story of childhood friendships, sexual awakening and human frailty. Yet its epic sweep takes in the changing of a nation, the fight for women’s suffrage and the questioning of steadfast beliefs.

Grade: A-