Fly or Fall by Gilli Allan
Gilli Allan writes sharp, smart prose and her characters, while not always likable, are utterly believable. Despite recoiling from some of Nell’s early decisions and attitudes, Allan drew me into Nell’s world almost imperceptibly, and I rooted for her, and cared about her fate. A skill indeed.
Will the fear of the unknown ever overcome the fear of stepping away from solid ground? Wife and mother, Nell, fears change, but it is forced upon her by her manipulative husband, Trevor.
Finding herself in a new world of flirtation and casual infidelity, her principles are undermined and she’s tempted. Should she emulate the behaviour of her new friends or stick with the safe and familiar? But everything Nell has accepted at face value has a dark side.
Everyone – even her nearest and dearest – has been lying. She’s even deceived herself. The presentiment of disaster, first felt as a tremor at the start of the story, rumbles into a full blown earthquake. When the dust settles, nothing is as it previously seemed.
And when an unlikely love blossoms from the wreckage of her life, she fears it is doomed. The future, for the woman who feared change, is irrevocably altered.
But has she been broken, or has she transformed herself?
Review by Laura Wilkinson:
If you’re looking for a frothy, escapist read then Gilli Allan’s accomplished novel won’t be for you. But if you like meat on your summer read; a story which tackles some serious issues without ever sounding tub-thumping then this could well be for you.
Nell, our lead, is an insecure, old-before-her- time mother of teenage twins – she’s in her early 30s but seems much older; a result of responsibility at such a young age, no doubt. An urbanite with a social conscience, she doesn’t much like change, but this is forced upon her by her controlling husband.
Thrust into a home counties, suburban environment with its focus on acquisition (of material goods as well as love conquests – there’s a lot of infidelity round these parts) Nell is a fish out of water. At first overwhelmed, she begins to find her way – and discovers things about herself and those around her that aren’t always palatable. No one is quite what they seem in this ‘Stepford Wives’ type territory, and secrets abound (it’s a novel, after all!). But as Nell learns what she wants from life, love blossoms.
Gilli Allan writes sharp, smart prose and her characters, while not always likable, are utterly believable. Despite recoiling from some of Nell’s early decisions and attitudes, Allan drew me into Nell’s world almost imperceptibly, and I rooted for her, and cared about her fate. A skill indeed. The story is a little slow to get going – it’s a big book – but do stick with it. An enjoyable read with plenty to think about.
Review by J.B. Johnston:
When her fortune changes and money is no issue for a change, Nell’s husband is keen to move away from their hectic lifestyle in London and put down roots in a country village. Nell isn’t really keen but is railroaded into the decision. Nell feels like she didn’t really have a choice to move away from all that is familiar to her.
Apart from the change of scenery there appears to be a change in Nell’s husband too. He soon becomes a different person, and not the person Nell married. Nell becomes lonely and isolated but makes new friends who seem to revel in stories of their open marriages and are the most materialistic people Nell has come across. Nell’s life is soon complicated further when an encounter with a young man at a nightclub and a friendship struck up with a local builder soon have Nell questioning everything in her life.
Fly or Fall is one of those books that draws you in right from the start. Immediately I felt sympathy for Nell and how everyone else seems so in charge of her life and she is merely a bystander. She initially is a woman who feels uncertain about her place in the world and is so desperate to blend into the background that she becomes invisible to the very people who should care about her.
Nell’s life and marriage are typical of many. She married young with very little choice in the matter and simply accepted her fate. She is constantly taken for granted by her children and manipulating husband Trevor. Kept in blissful ignorance about all aspects of her marriage and accepting of the loveless sex life, Nell simply just gets on with things and accepts her lot in life.
Initially, Nell appears to be an older woman and I found it shocking that as I read on I realised that she was in fact a much younger woman with all the regrets of someone who has lived a life full of regret and broken promises. Her outlook on life was jaded and her self-esteem was in her boots. There are many underlying stories throughout the course of the book and Nell becomes embroiled in each of them. She struggles to understand the strange feelings that Patrick the builder evokes in her and David, the man she encounters at a nightclub.
Fly or Fall is a book about love, life and a desire to change, despite the fear of failure. In this story we see Nell change into someone that even she struggles to recognise. It is a story of regret too. Regret for those things not done, those adventures never embarked on and those feelings never given in to. However, soon Nell begins to wake up from the life she has sleepwalked through and a change is awakened in her.
However, not everyone in her life is happy about it and Nell herself struggles with the range of emotions she feels and the desire to be a different person that suddenly appears from nowhere! Coupled with an attraction to two new men in her life, Nell struggles as her moral compass is unsure which direction it should be pointing.
Fly or Fall is a grown up book. It is a book about having the courage to fly when you are so afraid of falling. Highly recommended.