All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

After The Fall – Kylie Ladd

on September 7, 2010

It’s not often I’ve read a novel on the basis of a recommendation from the author herself. Actually, this is the first time it’s ever actually happened. But when Kylie Ladd told me on Twitter that I should read her novel when I was looking for my next book to read, I thought hmm, ok! Why not? I do love trying new Australian authors and this novel is set in Melbourne, where I currently (almost, I’m on the outskirts!) live.

After the Fall is the story of two couples, Kate & Cary, Luke & Cressida. Cary and Cressida work together, so the two couples meet through that and become good friends. They are all at a wedding when suave, good-looking Luke sees Kate standing off to the side, staring longingly at the dance floor. Cary, who doesn’t dance, is outside, trying to escape the possibility of having to. Cressida is in the bathroom, so Luke asks Kate to dance. It is an innocent act that will quickly become not-so when the two kiss passionately and intensely in front of everyone, in front of their returning spouses. Cary and Cressida are forgiving of this indiscretion, probably more forgiving than I would be, but quickly there is the law laid down that there will be no more socialising. No more cosy foursome dinners and weekends away to the river.

But with Cary and Cressida working at the same hospital, they can’t go forever without the four being in the same room again. At a hospital fundraiser trivia night, Cressida is called upstairs to a patient, Cary away to fix the temperamental sound equipment. Luke and Kate take advantage of their spouses absence to rekindle what started at that wedding. This time though, there is nothing to stop them. They fall headlong into an affair, they fall headlong into love, they fall headlong into an obsession.

Infidelity. It’s a powerful word that evokes so many emotions and it’s a brave topic to tackle. To be honest, I’ve always been on a soapbox about infidelity, it’s probably best not to get me started. I don’t ever consider any excuse to be reasonable, you just don’t do that sort of thing. I thought I’d struggle to get into this book due to the topic and my feelings on it but that wasn’t the case. Actually, I read it in just over 2 hours! It’s written in an interesting way – the chapters are short, clipped, almost abrupt. They alternate points of view between Kate, Cary, Luke and Cressida so you get all four sides, but with a personal touch rather than just being told in a distant third person sort of way. They read like the characters are speaking directly to you, like you’re their therapist or their counsellor. Like they’re answering questions you have asked them. It was a very effective tool, I thought, because it places you right in there. You’re involved, whether you want to be or not! You get into each of the characters, you hear from them, you get to know them, you feel for them. And given I’m a massive voyeur who loves to peek into people’s lives, this is like story-telling gold for me.

It was impossible not to get swept away with this novel as it unfolded. I was amazed and yet disturbed at how easily these two characters fell into such a fully-fledged affair and how easy it was that they kept it hidden for so long. They saw each other nearly ever day, leading to their work being affected, such was their obsession, their total immersion into this affair. It brought me back to the themes in books recently read, both The Pilot’s Wife and The Post-Birthday World: how well do we really know someone? Especially when that someone is our spouse? The person we have chosen to marry, chosen to spend the rest of our lives with and yet – how well, really? Cary and Cressida seem blithely unaware of this affair as it carries on, apparently secure in the knowledge that the temptation has been removed now that the two couples do not socialise. How many people have found out their partner has had an affair and said ‘I never knew a thing’. This book shows you just how freaking easy it is for two people to fall into one. To fall into the subterfuge, the guilt (but not enough guilt to stop!), the deception, the pure thrill of the forbidden. The affair is discovered by mere chance, the discovery enough. Neither Cressida nor Cary demand the details (as I would, I have to know everything, even things that would cause me considerable pain) but it’s clear that it’s no longer the case of just a kiss anymore. It’s so much more than that now.

Despite the fact that your sympathies automatically go to the injured parties Cary and Cressida, it didn’t mean that I loathed Luke and Kate for their wrong doing and betrayal. At times, I did dislike them intensely for their cavalier attitudes to their partners, their carelessness but I was so fascinated by them and so drawn in by the story that I couldn’t get angry at the book. I did find Kate much more palatable than Luke and that the session Cressida has him attend with the therapist nails him aptly: the longed-for son, subject to adoring female attention his whole life, good-looking and with a truckload of conquests behind him. Although he intends to stay faithful to Cressida, it’s without surprise that he doesn’t. He’s shallow, self-involved and smug: ‘For seven months I was the happiest man in the world. Who wouldn’t have been? Two beautiful women whose faces lit up when they saw me, one always available if the other was elsewhere’. He shows very little remorse at all. When Cressida wants to apply for a fellowship overseas, he is quite happy to tell Kate that they’ll just be ‘on hold’ and pick up exactly where they left off after the two years of the fellowship is over and he returns from overseas. It’s that kind of attitude that has me skeptical that he ever loved either Cressida or Kate – he married Cressida seemingly because she was beautiful, well bred, and he says he loves her but he never actually shows that he loves her. With Kate, she is sick sick sick at the thought of Luke leaving to go overseas (indeed, she barely coped when she was parted from him for a week over Christmas) but Luke seems mostly unaffected by it other than being a bit angry when Cressida informs him she wants to apply. It is also Kate that forces things to a head with Luke, offering him the choice of Cressida or her and he must choose before the verdict on the fellowship comes back. She is forced into action, whereas he would’ve been happily passive.

Not only is it difficult to read this novel as a fiance (did I mention my husband works nights? Up to 3 hours away? And often doesn’t get home until after midnight (or does he???) when I’m long in bed) it’s also hard to read as a mother. Cressida works in paediatrics, with children who have cancer and the story of Emma, her first patient, woven so cleverly into this tale, is heartbreaking. Equally as heartbreaking were the scenes featuring Emma’s parents and her little sister Shura. I just wanted to scoop her up and hug her and tell her that it was okay, she was special too. And yet I sympathized so much with her distracted parents as they watched their older daughter deteriorate. I’d have read a whole book on just that family even if I bawled my entire way through it. Sick kids are my Achilles heel. And sick old people…. oh wait, this book has that too!

Is this book for everyone? No, probably not. But if you can get past the subject matter and dive in, then you’ll find yourself praying that you’ve got a lot of oxygen in your tank because you won’t want to come up for air. It’s addictive and mesmerizing and you’ll keep turning pages until you reach the ending. The pacing is quick, the style conducive to being utterly devoured. Anyone who reads my blog knows I like neatly tied up endings, they don’t always have to be happy, but I usually like to be left without questions if the novel is stand-alone. This one leaves me with plenty, and lots of reflections and I’m still mulling it over right now.


(Book #63 of my 75 Book Challenge)

**Just a note: although I read this book at the suggestion of the author, I didn’t receive it for free. I bought and paid for it myself and the my review is not written for gain in any way. It reflects my true feelings, just as any other review I’ve written where I don’t know the author on Twitter!

2 responses to “After The Fall – Kylie Ladd

  1. What a great review!! I usually shy away from a book that is recommended by only other authors sometimes, but I might have to make a change for this one!

  2. I am pretty sure I read a review of this book recently. It sounds great and I definitely plan on checking to see if my library has it.

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