If a novel takes the reader on a journey, this was like being abducted out of a deep sleep, taken out in the dark and pushed down a flight of steep stairs. I won’t say that I’ll never read an Ann-Marie MacDonald novel ever again, but it’s going to be a while.
>Fall On Your Knees – Ann-Marie MacDonald (Canadian Book Challenge)
This is my 5th book for The Canadian Book Challenge. Wow, 5 provinces! The journey has been enjoyable, until now.
I’ve been known to say that I’ve “devoured a book,” meaning that I read it quickly and enjoyed it immensely. Sometimes, though, it feels like the book has devoured me: I read it quickly and it was an intense experience but I didn’t really enjoy the book.
This has happened twice to me in recent years: Wuthering Heights back in 2005, and now, my most recent read, Fall On Your Knees. It’s interesting that Fall On Your Knees opens with a quote from Wuthering Heights. A chilling choice for a quote, too, considering James Piper’s twisted relationship with his wife and daughters.
This was an Oprah pick back in 2002, and it’s easy to see why: Women as victims, but trying to survive and comfort themselves with whatever is at hand while living in fear. Evil man taking every opportunity to destroy their happiness and/or them. Sisterhood rising from the ashes with a faint breath of hope that everything can be put right.
I admire Ann-Marie MacDonald’s storytelling skills. She really captured the sense of time and place — Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, in the early years of the 20th century. The bleak beauty and isolation of the setting also brought to mind Wuthering Heights.
So many questions were raised in my mind that I was compelled to keep turning the pages. But there’s so much going on in the novel –death, murder, incest, illegitimacy, multiculturalism, lesbianism, religion — that it feels jumbled. Some parts go on too long, like Frances in her Girl Guides uniform, being dirty in both senses of the word. Frances’ motivation for pursuing Ginger could have been explained a little more clearly. Lily’s journey to New York seems muddled as well. I did figure fairly early out what led to Kathleen’s ruin and demise, but not the identity of her lover in New York. The diary portion of the novel seems to go on overly long. By that time, Kathleen had been out of the novel for a long time.
In addition, there were some anachronisms that were distracting, like a reference to Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer by one of the little Piper girls. I’m also slightly prejudiced because my Least Favorite Poem Of All Time, “Don’t Whine” has been reprinted in this novel. Finally, I felt horror and pity for the Piper women’s situation, but none of them were particularly likable, so this feeling was at a slight remove and unfortunately touched with irritation and an increasing coolness as the novel progressed.