Fall by West Camel #BookReview #BlogTour

 

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.

I'm delighted to be hosting the blog tour for Fallen today. Many thanks to West Camel, Orenda Books and Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for inviting me and for my advance copy of the novel.

Like West Camel's debut novel, Attend, Fall is set in Deptford and although the two are completely separate stories, they share some similarities which will surely become hallmarks of this immensely talented author's books as his body of works continues to grow. The sense of time and place here is immaculate - the storyline switches effortlessly between 1976 and the present day and the lyrical flow of the prose invites readers to immerse themselves into a deceptively simple tale of two estranged brothers who are both equally determined not to give in to the other.
Aaron still lives in the flat they grew up in. Marlowe Tower is a now crumbling building in a Deptford estate already undergoing the sort of renovation and regentrification that has seen so many Londoners cajoled and persuaded to leave the homes they had lived in for years. However, Aaron refuses to move and to complicate matters further, it's his twin brother, Clive who is the wealthy property developer behind the scheme to turn the flats into luxury apartments. As the book progresses, it gradually becomes clear why Aaron stayed - this flat, this tower, this estate was designed by their mother, ZoĆ« Goldsworthy, a visionary architect who fought the system to become successful in her field at a time when women were expected to stay at home and leave the profession to the men. Her ground-breaking achievement, the Deptford Strand Estate might be a neglected, shabby shadow of the dreams it once promised to those who chose communal living in high-rise towers but in 1976, it is still filled with people living next to and on top of one another. The reasons behind Clive's plans are revealed eventually too, of course - this is far more than a tale of the good and bad brother at odds with one another
1976 is forever synonymous with the long, hot summer of that year but the chapters simmer with a different type of heat too. Many of the residents of Marlowe Tower object to two young black women moving in. The accusations aren't always overtly racist but the meaning is clear and the tension it brings is a reminder of a period when the National Front were perpetrating acts of violence against black people while much of society claimed "they weren't racist but didn't think that sort fitted in round here." It's an uncomfortable but necessary read, made perhaps all the more so because it is the insidious form of fearful prejudice examined here rather than the more obviously aggressive actions that most people rightly condemned. This 'reasonable' racism, however, was heard in homes across Britain, on our televisions, in our streets and quite possibly from the mouths of some of our relatives. 
Annette and Christine are also twins and as they refuse to be restricted or cowed by their neighbours, their parties attract scores of young people from the estate and beyond. It's always clear that at some point there has to be some form of confrontation and that the consequences will mean Aaron and Clive don't speak to one another for forty years. As the two older men grapple with the memories of the past and the chapters set in 1976 lead us towards the moment where everything changes, it's fascinating to see how West Camel links the big issues to the more intimate, personal tribulations that challenge and tear apart the lives of these characters.
There's a poetry to West Camel's writing which means the power of his words are almost deceptive; this beautiful, descriptive novel explores truths about society and community, families and friends with such penetrating insight. The intricate storyline as it weaves through past and present, truth and lies, memories and regrets is remarkable and at times we're given a birds-eye view of what is happening, connecting us to events on an almost personal level. 
The secrets uncovered here are mirrored by the extraordinary Marlowe Tower itself, a building which has its own puzzles and mysteries and which becomes almost a character in its own right. It is the twins, Aaron and Clive who are the true heart of the book however, and the bond between the pair, so seemingly unbreakable at first - the unspoken communication and comfort-seeking touches between the pair, so often underline just how close they were as young men - means their isolated existence in their later years, in sight of one another and yet far out of reach is heartbreakingly poignant. The truth behind the shattering tragedy and all that followed is eventually revealed and though the losses and mistakes remain, the conclusion is desperately moving. This elegantly bittersweet, thoughtful book and the characters within will linger long in my mind. 

Fall is published by Orenda Books and can be purchased directly from their website or from bookshop.org, Hive, Waterstones, Kobo and Amazon but I would thoroughly recommend ordering from an independent bookshop as you'll receive a copy with stunning illustrations by David F. Ross.

Don't miss the rest of the blog tour, details are below.

About the Author
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. Attend is his first novel (slipped into the Orenda Books submission pile under a false name), and it was shortlisted for the Polari First Novel Award and longlisted for the Guardian Not the Booker Prize. He lives in London and is currently working on his second novel.






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