Dustin Reviews: Fall Love by Anne Whitehouse

Fall Love is a tragicomedy of love and friendship, an allegory of innocence and experience, and a novel of manners. It is the story of Althea, Jeanne, Paul, and Bryce, all in their twenties, living in New York City. Friends since childhood, Althea and Jeanne are a study in contrasts, as are the lovers Paul and Bryce. The novel takes place over five months, from August, 1980, to New Year’s Day, 1981. Fall Love depicts a love triangle, which is actually a quadrangle with a missing link. The characters love unequally. They experience vulnerabilities they hadn’t imagined. The women’s friendship suffers, as does the men’s love. Each character experiences a fall which is actual as well as metaphysical; the damage is unequal, as is the love. With vivid descriptions of time and place, the novel chronicles the lives of Althea, Jeanne, Paul, and Bryce, as they undergo trials, experience revelations, and are affected by chance, luck, or fate. As we learn about their ambitions, triumphs, and defeats, Fall Love explores their inner lives and their struggles to let go of the unattainable and accept the possible.

Fall Love is a dark and depressing tragedy (I never saw the “comedy”) which wavered from contemporary to Victorian writing styles. There are a number of lengthy and elaborate, word heavy descriptive passages, most created wonderful mental images, but they did nothing to forward the story. I had a number of “WTF” moments while reading the descriptive passages of Mississippi. Supposedly the author is a native of Mississippi and yet her descriptions of the south were off the mark… at least for me. Where are the old Oak trees, Spanish Moss and blooming Magnolias? Honey child, I spent many a summer in Mississippi as a youth.

The four main characters, all in their twenties, were too insecure and dwelt too seriously on the doom and gloom aspects of their lives. When I was in my twenties, I and my friends were optimistic and excited about making our way through life’s journey. When two or more of the Fall Love characters got together, their insecurities and doubts seemed to feed off each other which made for a depressing and slow read. If I had friends which made me feel that insecure, I’d have dumped them (in a heart beat) for new upbeat friends.

The dialogue lacked feeling and emotion and felt almost Victorian in style. I would cringe during most dialogue passages because no one in their twenties (in early 1980’s) spoke so stilted. From the jerky dialogue, I came away with the feeling that the characters were in their 50’s. Occasionally a casual and relaxed passage would sneak into the manuscript, but only briefly.

The basic story is interesting, not original, but by cutting the word heavy laden descriptions, bringing the dialogue up-to-date and delete that which doesn’t move the story forward… Fall Love could be a fast paced enjoyable short story read.

Over all, Fall Love missed the mark on way too many levels to be an enjoyable read.

2 out of 5 stars.


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