Fallen Land by Patrick Flanery

fallen landState of the Union…

😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

Publication Date: 1st May 2013

“Anyone who doesn’t believe in freedom at eighteen is a fascist. Anyone who doesn’t believe in security at forty is a criminal.”

In this extraordinary book, Flanery delves deep into the troubled American psyche in the post 9/11, post global crash world where the tectonic plates of certainty and complacency have shifted with volcanic and destructive results.

When the economic collapse strikes, Paul Krovik loses everything, including his family and the house that he built for them. He had planned to build a whole development but now the few completed houses stand, already decaying, on swampy land in the middle of an unfinished building site. Louise’s family had owned the land for generations until she was forced to sell to Paul and now Louise lives in her old house at the edge of the site. And now Nathaniel and Julie Noailles, with their young son Copley, are moving from their urban, socially liberal life in Boston to live in this suburban house in an unnamed town in the South. Unknown to them, Paul is living in the concealed basement, determined to get the house back…

Patrick Flanery
Patrick Flanery

Flanery’s prose is wonderful and the characters he has crafted are complex and compelling, each damaged by history and experience and each inspiring empathy in the reader. He develops them slowly, letting us see the influences, both personal and political, that have made them what they are: Paul, whose father brought him up on quotations from Emerson, believes in individualism and apocalypse; Louise, descendant of slaves, guilty at losing the land they treasured, and hating Paul for destroying it; and the Noailles, a family whose veneer of liberalism hides dark secrets and is gradually eroded by fear and mistrust. Through their stories, Flanery shows us the stresses and tensions in a nation still dealing with the aftermath of terror and economic meltdown. The society he depicts is one where trust has broken down; where ultimate security is the goal regardless of the cost to personal freedom; where privacy is seen as an unaffordable luxury; and where the state is in the process of passing responsibility for social control into the hands of an unelected, unaccountable and profit-driven private sector.

The descriptions of the decaying house and the swampy land as the rain beats interminably down add to the air of oppressive menace and threat that builds throughout the book. And as events spiral, Flanery’s depiction of the psychological effects on each character is both convincing and disturbing, as love and trust turn gradually into suspicion and paranoia. This is a masterly, multi-layered book, which works on both levels – as a fine, slow-burning psychological thriller, and as a persuasive metaphor for a society in turmoil in response to huge events.

“If we are not in the final chapters of our history then we are at the end of a particular volume, unable to predict how further instalments may unfold.”

Is this the Great American Novel for this decade? As a Brit, I wouldn’t presume to decide that question but I’d certainly nominate it strongly for the shortlist. And, as a Brit, I feel I understand far more clearly where the American psyche is positioned after reading this, and it scares me. I wait with real interest for the reaction of American reviewers. Highly recommended.

NB This review is of a proof copy kindly provided by the publisher, Atlantic Books.

Amazon UK Link
Amazon US Link

26 thoughts on “Fallen Land by Patrick Flanery

    • I know how you feel! I was so lucky to get an advance copy. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did – though ‘enjoy’ doesn’t begin to describe what happens when a really great book gets inside your head, does it?

  1. This sounds like a great read. and even though I’m American, I’ve been living in London for a couple of years and I’m starting to feel a disconnect with the US. Might be good for me to pick this up.

    • I think it’s going to be fascinating to see what Americans make of this book. My guess is it could divide opinion quite a lot. If you do read it when it comes out, I’d love to know what you think. 🙂

    • Yes, of course you can! Thank you! Don’t you Kindle then? I think the Kindle version came out in both US and UK today. This one’s worth getting a Kindle for.. 😉

          • For River City Reader and other American unfortunates (like me), I was able to order the hardcover from the Amazon UK site, pay a little extra for shipping, and the book arrived here in San Francisco within the week. Now if I could only find the time to read it . . .

            • Hallo, Matt! As my old teachers used to say about my homework, you must MAKE time!! If for no other reason than that I can’t wait to hear what you think of it… 🙂

            • Latest news: I just received an advert email from Amazon US, you know the type, on the latest interesting fiction, blah, blah, blah. Not only was Fallen Land in it, it was the first book in it, and its title was the Subject Line of the email (i.e., not Interesting Fiction, or Latest Literary Fiction, or Our Latest Precision Marketing Guess at What You’ll Buy . . . but “Fallen Land — A Novel”. All pub is good pub, but that’s great pub in this new world of bookselling, and richly deserved. I love it when they get things right.

              Matt

            • Good news, indeed! Let’s hope it feeds through to sales.

              I love these marketing e-mails from Amazon though – they constantly offer me things I’ve already bought from them…and reviewed!

    • Until September 2014, Scots are Brits (but NOT English!!!). After that, who knows…..???

      (I know, it’s all very complicated. Just remember I am Kirkintillochian, Glaswegian, Scottish, British, European and/or a citizen of the world depending on what I happen to be doing at the time. But NEVER English!!!)

      And yes, it’s a great book – you really should read it, but I warn you, if you rip it, that’d definitely bring out my Glaswegian side… 👿

        • Oh, you’re right! I’ll need to add the Punchy Lands into my address. Now would that come before ‘world’ or after?

          I believe I am 1/32nd English as it happens, but into each life some rain must fall.

            • Actually, in case any English readers might be offended, I am joking! The Scottish/English rivalry is generally good natured with only a minority of people on either side who take it to extremes. But we always laugh when a Scottish sportsman wins and is instantly called British by the English media, whereas if he loses he’s Scottish. But generally I’m as patriotic about Britain as I am about Scotland.

  2. Just a note to say that Fallen Land got a rave review in yesterday’s New York Times Book Review. Unfortunately, the reviewer managed to give away every single plot turn in the book–leaving only the very ending untouched, in the course of the first three paragraphs or so. Unbelievable, especially since none of this gave any great insight to the best parts of the book, the beauty of the writing, etc. Still, this should help the book here in the States.

    • I hate when they do that – why do the editors let them? It’s one of the reasons I don’t often read reviews in the papers – so often I end up feeling I no longer need to read the book. I suppose synopsis is easier than criticism. However, glad to hear the book’s getting some publicity at last. 🙂

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