In an unspecified time and location, an unnamed boy is living what he feels to be an idyllic life in the faded and peeling Lido where his father is a lifeguard.
He idolises his father–never more so than when he saves the life of a suicidal man–and he comes to believe that heroism is all.
The arrest of his sister Lilly later that summer brings the halcyon days to an abrupt end, and his family is torn apart, with Lilly sent to jail and the boy sent to a boarding house for dysfunctional boys, far away from his home–The Fell. He is young and afraid but the boys in the home become his family and they band together against their enemies, both real and imagined.
The boy is an unreliable narrator, seeing the world and his place in it through a unique lens. He meets ghosts, hears voices and battles his fears but never questions his own version of reality. Anger spills over when he hears the girl he loves referred to as a twenty-dollar-whore and his actions lead him to run from The Fell. And run, and run…
I’ve just done a late nighter and finished reading The Fell … Unputdownable! It is a work of true beauty. Light infusing darkness infusing light … A wonderfully, fantastically fluent, liberating must read. Samsara is nirvana … Bring on the sequel. – Teresa
The characters were believable yet unlike the people I meet in my typically protected world. Somehow I did understood their motives and responses and ambitions – it did all make sense from the inside. This is England but I have no doubt the same characters and situations could equally be Australian. If you’ve ever shaken your head in incomprehension at news of “troubled youth” and their antics, this book will help. You find yourself caring where once you would have been cross. Worth it. I wasn’t ready for it to end. – Ms Catatat
“The Fell” is Feallan House, a residential school for boys with troubled backgrounds. In our boy’s case, his colorful family had suddenly fallen apart and he was whisked by social services to this isolated outpost where the inmates do indeed seem to be running the asylum. But don’t expect linear narration. There are intense bondings with the people who cross his path, most of them other boys; there is virtuosic wordplay; there are some paragraphs — filled with verbal trickery — that run for several screens on my Kindle; but at least these latter do contain punctuation. Disclosure: I received an advance review copy. – DKW