My enormous thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to participate in this blog tour for West Camel’s Fall. I’m very pleased to share my review of Fall today.
Published by Orenda on 9th December 2021, Fall is available for purchase here.
Twins Aaron and Clive have been estranged for forty years. Aaron still lives in the empty, crumbling tower block on the riverside in Deptford where they grew up. Clive is a successful property developer, determined to turn the tower into luxury flats.
But Aaron is blocking the plan and their petty squabble becomes something much greater when two ghosts from the past – twins Annette and Christine – appear in the tower. At once, the desolate estate becomes a stage on which the events of one scorching summer are relived – a summer that shattered their lives, and changed everything forever…
Grim, evocative and exquisitely rendered, Fall is a story of friendship and family – of perception, fear and prejudice, the events that punctuate our journeys into adulthood, and the indelible scars they leave – a triumph of a novel that will affect you long after the final page has been turned.
My Review of Fall
Aaron and Clive are estranged twins.
Fall is exactly my kind of book. I loved it because it is exquisitely written, elegantly constructed and completely mesmerising. West Camel’s writing is beautiful. The variety of his sentences means that depth of feeling and meanings are conveyed with almost a visceral intensity. West Camel’s use of the senses, his direct appeal to the reader and his atmospheric prose are truly captivating.
There’s a tension, an air of expectation, bordering menace from the very first moment in Fall that ensnares the reader. The oppressive heat adds to the atmosphere and the switch between past and present tenses for the two time lines adds weight and immediacy, linking both eras perfectly. Whether the nod to Cain and Abel suggested by the fact the twins have names beginning with A add C was intentional I don’t know, but it added a sense of danger lurking in the back of my mind as I read.
In many ways the plot is relatively simple, as Clive wants Aaron out of the tower block he wants to develop, but that belies the intricacies of West Camel’s narrative that only finally fit together as the story reaches its last sentence. In the same way that Zoe’s tower block has secret passages, so reading Fall is the literary equivalent of viewing an Escher painting. Perspectives and truths shift and change so that I thought it was absolutely wonderful. Indeed, Fall is perfectly entitled. Here we have fallings out, physical falls, falls from grace and favour, and so on, that build layers of interest in the story. As soon as I’d finished reading Fall I wanted to read it again as I’m sure there is even more for me to discover. I’m convinced it’s no coincidence that the tower is called Marlowe Tower, because of the connotations of intrigue and links to themes of ambition, power and manipulation in Christopher Marlowe’s life and works that thread through Fall. It’s hard to explain further without spoiling the plot but Fall is such convincing storytelling.
Part of the delicious intensity in reading Fall comes thought the fabulous characterisation. The almost psychic link between Aaron and Clive and between Annette and Christine feels so convincing. Although Aaron seems more prominent in the story because he is still living in Marlowe Tower, Fall feels balanced and nuanced. I found Zoe both abhorrent and fascinating and at no pint could I decide whether she had been entirely honest or entirely duplicitous so that she’s a really flawed, but compelling, individual.
Add in simmering racism, secrets and lies, community and design, relationships and identity and Fall is a book that feels simultaneously modern and timeless. It’s one of my favourite reads of 2021. I thought it was excellent.
About West Camel
Born and bred in south London – and not the Somerset village with which he shares a name – West Camel worked as an editor in higher education and business before turning his attention to the arts and publishing. He has worked as a book and arts journalist, and was editor at Dalkey Archive Press, where he edited the Best European Fiction 2015 anthology, before moving to new press Orenda Books just after its launch. He currently combines his work as editorial director at Orenda with editing The Riveter magazine and #RivetingReviews for the European Literature Network.
He has also written several short scripts, which have been produced in London’s fringe theatres, and was longlisted for the Old Vic’s 12 playwrights project. His debut novel, Attend was published in 2018, and was shortlisted for the Polari First Book Prize and longlisted for the Waverton Good Read Award. His second novel, Fall was published in December 2021.