I’m trying hard not to accept new blog tours and posts at the moment as I am inundated. However, when Anne at Random Things Tours invited me to be part of the launch celebrations for Carolyn Kirby’s new book, When We Fall, I knew I had to be involved. It’s just over a year since I reviewed here Carolyn’s The Conviction of Cora Burns which I absolutely loved so I knew I’d be in for a treat with When We Fall. It’s an honour to be helping close the tour.
When We Fall
From the acclaimed author of The Conviction of Cora Burns, longlisted for the Historical Writers’ Association Debut Crown Award
‘A poignant story of love, betrayal and impossible moral choices’ – Nick Rennison, Sunday Times
England, 1943.Lost in fog, pilot Vee Katchatourian is forced to make an emergency landing where she meets enigmatic RAF airman Stefan Bergel, and then can’t get him out of her mind.
In occupied Poland, Ewa Hartman hosts German officers in her father’s guest house, while secretly gathering intelligence for the Polish resistance. Mourning her lover, Stefan, who was captured by the Soviets at the start of the war, Ewa is shocked to him on the street one day.
Haunted by a terrible choice he made in captivity, Stefan asks Vee and Ewa to help him expose one of the darkest secrets of the war. But it is not clear where everyone’s loyalties lie until they are tested…
Published to coincide with the 75th anniversary of VE Day and based on WWII war atrocity the Katyn massacre, When We Fall is a moving story of three lives forever altered by one fatal choice.
My Review of When We Fall
Vee’s fog bound emergency landing will change her life.
I absolutely loved When We Fall. Firstly, the quality of Carolyn Kirby’s writing is so good because it has a modern freshness whist retaining an authentic period feel too so that it was easy to be totally immersed in the narrative. Descriptions are so subtly included that they paint a picture in the reader’s mind that transports them to the setting and action as if they are part of the events too.
Also adding to the credibility and authenticity is the meticulous research that has gone into the book. I confess I had no idea about the particular historical event that underpins this novel, but I finished When We Fall educated, entertained and emotionally connected to the people and the era. When We Fall truly is an hypnotic presentation of the period.
I found the entire story utterly gripping. Nearer the end my heart was thumping, partly because I wasn’t convinced that the outcomes would be ones I wanted. I was completely invested in the characters and knowing that the events were founded in historical fact somehow made these fictional people all the more real. Although there are several vivid peripheral characters, the focus on Vee, Ewa and Stefan feels intimate and precise, making for an immersive, totally engaging read. I thought Vee was magnificent. She embodies a feminism ahead of her time whilst retaining a vulnerability that made me concerned for her throughout.
I actually found Stefan quite difficult to like despite the attraction Ewa and Vee feel for him and that is what makes When We Fall such a wonderful book. I may not have liked the male lead character but I cared about him, understood his behaviour and wanted him to succeed because of Carolyn Kirby’s fantastic writing.
Obviously war is central to the narrative, but the themes presented are beautifully woven into the story. Loyalty, love, identity, bravery, sexism, nationalism, passion, grief and so on, form a compelling maelstrom that draws in the reader and won’t let them go. Alongside the history in When We Fall is mystery and a love story too so that there is something for any reader.
I devoured When We Fall over a weekend. This isn’t to say it is an easy and insubstantial read, but rather that Carolyn Kirby hypnotises the reader, making them desperate to know what will happen to the characters and holding them spellbound until the very last word. When We Fall is one of those novels that stays with the reader long after the pages are closed. I loved it.
About Carolyn Kirby
Carolyn Kirby’s debut novel The Conviction of Cora Burns was begun on a writing course at Faber Academy and went on to win the Bluepencilagency Award for unpublished novels. Published in March 2019 by No Exit Press in the UK and Dzanc Books in North America, the novel has been getting praise from reviewers and journalists. The Sunday Mirror called it; ‘A great historical novel with bite,’ and it was chosen by The Times as an historical fiction book of the month.
Before being a full-time writer, Carolyn worked in social housing and as a teacher. She has two grown-up daughters and lives with her husband in Oxfordshire.