intense | atmospheric | immersive
what it says on the cover …
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.
PUBLISHED: 9th December 2021
SHELF: Literary Fiction | Suspense
AUTHOR: West Camel
PUBLISHER: Orenda Books
FORMATS: Paperback | Kindle | AudioBook
Thank you to Karen Sullivan @OrendaBooks for kindly sending me an advance proof copy of #Fall by @west_camel
my review …
I first spotted Fall on #BookTwitter, and I have to admit that as well as being enticed by the book’s cover (it positively screamed ‘atmospheric suspense’ at me), I was also intrigued by the author’s unusual name. A quick nosey around Google enlightened me both about the author (there’s a brief bio at the end of this review, if your curiosity has been similarly piqued) and his highly acclaimed writing. Having not read his debut novel, Attend, I knew I was a little on the back-foot, but I felt that familiar prickle of anticipation at having just stumbled across an author who’s new to me. So, here I am, having finished the book and I guess (I hope!) you’re wondering what I thought. In a nutshell … superb … if I were a chef I’d be doing that very French thing of kissing my fingers with a flourished ‘mwah’!
My first, and enduring, impression was how quietly impactful the author’s writing style is. He tells a complex story with profound intimacy, wrapped within a simple plot. The prose is both lyrical and disembodied, creating a forlorn, haunting atmosphere that pulses with life; I can only explain its densely evocative rendering as an insistent, baited beckoning into the lives of its vividly-crafted characters.
There are no speech marks in this conversation-rich novel, and yet the style and formatting left me with absolutely no uncertainty over who was speaking to whom. I know this won’t be to everyone’s taste, but over the last year I’ve read some truly unforgettable novels where the author also adopts this technique (Still Life by Sarah Winman, My Brother by Karin Smirnoff) and I have to say I love it … it’s moody, intelligent, and distinctive, and skilfully forges a closer reader-character dynamic.
Fall spans a forty five years-long moment in time, pivoting on one summer … one night that summer … one moment of that night. At the heart of the story are two sets of identical twins; Aaron and Clive, and Annette and Christine … one sibling pair white, the other black. The twins first meet during the stifling summer of 1976, the heat diffusing the prose with a languid haze. It was easy to fall under the spell of the text’s immersive rhythm, although I was often shaken out of it by bursts of prose that sharpened the passage, punching through the almost dreamlike fluidity of the story; at times it was a sentence so sublimely perfect I found myself re-reading it several times just to enjoy it again; at other times it was the cold, hard shock of the racist views of that time. Beneath it all flows a foreboding acceptance that something insurmountable and dreadful has happened … or will happen – depending on whether you’re more beholden by the present day storyline or the ‘76 storyline. Both era narratives are utterly absorbing, woven together in such a way that they somehow illuminate each other, and hide each other’s secrets … they spiral together like the twisted helix of DNA, or the thirty-storey staircase rising up through the heart of Marlowe Tower, carrying you not-that-gently towards the moment when they drop the breathtaking truth in your lap.
For the most part, Fall is written in the third person, but from time to time the narrative shifts, and it’s as if the reader is hand-in-hand with the author, flying through the scenes within the Tower; unseen but all-seeing. In these passages, the author refers to ‘we’ – him and me – creating the impression I’m somehow haunting the story and seeing it all first hand. It was one of many literary touches I hugely enjoyed.
At its heart, Fall is a sentient, percipient depiction of humanity, exploring and examining the bonds and tensions between families, siblings, friends, and neighbours. It manages to be both charming and conflicting, with the thought-provoking perspectives of a truly engaging and eclectic cast of characters. The author’s enticing storytelling and intelligent prose is emotionally engaging, stylistically expressive, and has totally, utterly hooked me. I’m already looking forward to reading more by 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 editor at Orenda Books with writing and editing a wide range of material for various arts organisations, including ghost-writing a New-Adult novel and editing The Riveter magazine 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 2018and was shortlisted for the Polari First Novel Award and long-listed for the Waverton Good Read Award.