Tag Archives: 5* review

Just Finished… When the English Fall

When the English Fall

The Blurb…

When a catastrophic solar storm brings about the collapse of modern civilization, an Amish community in Pennsylvania is caught up in the devastating aftermath. Once-bright skies are now dark. Planes have plummeted to the ground. The systems of modern life have crumbled. With their stocked larders and stores of supplies, the Amish are unaffected at first. But as the English (the Amish name for all non-Amish people) become more and more desperate, they begin to invade Amish farms, taking whatever they want and unleashing unthinkable violence on the peaceable community.

Seen through the diary of an Amish farmer named Jacob as he tries to protect his family and his way of life, When the English Fall examines the idea of peace in the face of deadly chaos: Should members of a nonviolent society defy their beliefs and take up arms to defend themselves? And if they don’t, can they survive?

David Williams’s debut novel is a thoroughly engrossing look into the closed world of the Amish, as well as a thought-provoking examination of “civilization” and what remains if the center cannot hold.

What I thought….

I read this quickly and easily, Jacob’s simple, clear narration through his diary entries lull you into the world he and his family inhabit within the Amish community.

If you are looking for a post-apocalypse story with action and adventure, this is not it. This is a consideration of human behaviour – the Amish and ‘English’ viewed in both their similarities and differences – when you strip away the superfluous, superficial distractions of ‘English’ modern lives.

Pg 27, when Jacob talks about his Rumspringa (going walkabout in the world of the English as a teenager): “I remember how people would walk around not even seeing each other, eyes down into their rectangles of light. No one was where they were.”

The irony that I typed this quote in to a rectangle of light, to remember this image from the book that I liked was not lost on me… But, it stuck with me as a perfect example of what you see repeatedly in the book: the drags on the time and focus of the English on inconsequential things compared to Jacob and his family, where time together, contentment in quiet activity and working hard to sustain their way of life are fulfilling in a wholly different, but very real way. Had they not lived so close to the English, their experience of the solar storm that changes everything around them, would actually have changed very little for them in reality. They are thankful for the natural bounty they get when weather is better than expected and work hard to manage and moderate when the natural world delivers more difficult situations.

These are the stories I like the best I think, the ‘iceberg’ ones where most of the activity takes place beneath the surface of the skin. Examining how quickly modern life can disintegrate, how ill prepared many are for anything other than the comfortable, on-demand lives they have is intriguing and very real in this book. You don’t need heroes and villains on a grand scale for an apocalyptic tale: the quick slide of ‘normal’ people into crime and looting when they become desperate, set against those who selflessly step forward to help strangers in need shows how this happens realistically.

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November – Read a Comedy

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The ‘2017 year of reading’ plan directed that November would be a comedy and so I bimbled around the library until I came across Life and Laughing by Michael McIntyre.

This the second autobiography of a comedian I’ve read in the last 12months and I enjoyed it even more than the first. If Graham Norton was the comedian I grew up with mainly through my late teens and early twenties with doggy-phone and So Graham Norton, Michael McIntyre is the one I’ve watched most recently over the last few years (this book is several years old now and takes you to the point where he began appearing on TV a lot).

Like Graham Norton’s book, I read ‘Life and Laughing’ in Michael’s voice – some of the sentences I could actually hear him saying and imagine him delivering them in one of his routines, head bobbing, cheeky grin and lots of running around the stage. I found – because I read it pretty quickly – that I also began throwing his style into my daily life, speaking to people at work in similar voice, which I had to stop pretty quick – my work life is just not that fun or exciting to justify impersonating a comedian as part of the daily grind.

Life and Laughing was funnier for me than Graham Norton’s book – although I laughed so loudly someone came to check I was OK when I was reading that, I chuckled, ‘lol’ed and SALTS (smiled and little then stopped) at this one all the way through. The observational comedy style that McIntyre has meant that virtually every page had funny-isms dropped onto it; he was writing about his past, but with his comedy eyes wide open all the time – even describing the set up and process of getting his writing room started at the beginning was good (if you’re interested, I’m writing my review on an old MacBook Pro c. 2011 13-inch-ish screen, which has a small crack in the right hand corner where I closed it on a book a couple of years ago – for safety purposes Magic Tape has been applied to prevent any tiny bits falling out).

My favourite thing about this book, behind the review of his life seen through comedy spectacles, was understanding how hard it is to achieve success as a comedian. Norton had similar struggles in his book and perhaps reading the two so close together brought this into greater focus for me. McIntyre shows you the true past behind the success – the long slog of years on a circuit of ‘jobbing’  stand-ups, multiple visits to Edinburgh Festival and everything in between where there’s little money coming in and lots going out as you try to achieve what is essentially a dream. How close must he have come to giving up on this, in order to have a ‘normal’ job that paid the bills? Perhaps it is passion or ambition, drive or something else that carries people to success – Michael seemed incredibly determined in his approach to his career, taking a booking for 12 months time and working in between to hone his skills.

Perhaps it takes someone so determined to succeed that they can live on an edge of huge debt without doing what many must do and ‘get a proper job’. It feels similar to being a writer in this sense – you can sit at home, writing away with no job trying to make it happen (or even in a coffee shop, a la J K Rowling), but many more must not be able to cope with the risk to home, comfort and the ability to eat something that isn’t a Tesco value meal…

The end of the book really made me think. McIntyre is a very positive, flexible comedian – he can do naughty as much as he can entertain families on his ‘Big Show’. Reading his story really made me appreciate what it must have taken to have held out and push to where he has gotten to today. I went into this book as a fan and came out really liking the man he seems to be (despite his revelations of being a stalker). I would recommend this to anyone who is a fan of his comedy and also to people who are not ‘biography’ readers – I’m not myself generally, but this one was really worth it.

Rating: 5*