Falling off the cliff of my interest

I am a sucker for historical fiction.

Seriously. You tell me a story about some kind of country house or palace, a family grappling with some kind of external force and maybe throw in a war? GIVE ME THAT BOOK.

Write a stellar first book of a promised trilogy and I am yours for life. Especially when you follow that up with equally impressive non-fiction.

But trick me into reading a sub-par effort in said trilogy and I will be SO MAD.

I loved The Storms of War. I couldn’t get enough of Kate Williams’ Ambition and Desire, a biography of Josephine Bonaparte.

But The Edge of the Fall, the follow-up to The Storms of War actively made me rage.


When we left the De Witt family, we weren’t at all sure what the fortunes of the war would do to them. The father had been incarcerated in an internment camp as an alien enemy, the younger son had been killed in battle, the older one had run off to Paris, Celia was back from driving ambulances and had her heart broken by Tom who was possibly her brother, and sister Emmeline had married her tutor and was living in London.

The Edge of the Fall literally starts with a young woman falling off the edge of a cliff.

The rest of the book tries to find out what happened to her: did she fall or was she pushed? Told from different viewpoints, jumping around in time, Williams attempts to fit the puzzle pieces together.

Except you already know exactly what happened, it’s not a mystery and it’s not even very interesting. Celia is so boring, she can’t be bothered to DO anything; Emmeline has twins and makes excuses for her socialist husband; big brother Arthur is a monster; and nothing really happens to anyone except this fall at the beginning.

For something billed as historical fiction, it tried really hard to be some sort of mystery. The whole thing was like that season of Downton when Bates is accused of murdering his ex-wife and everyone spends the season trying to figure out if he did or didn’t? Remember how tedious that was? This book is like that storyline.

I was so bored. I was screaming for something to happen, anything. The only interesting part was when Celia goes to visit the German relations, having been unable to see them for the entire duration of the war. Only then does Williams do any credit to the rich historical context of post-WWI Britain and relations with Germany. Shame that Celia was the least interesting, most self-absorbed and yet pathetic character in this book.

One of the most interesting angles of The Storms of War was how this Anglo-German family handled the split loyalties and how they were viewed in their community. None of that is really visited in this book, except when Celia goes to Germany to see firsthand the devastation the war has brought.

When, at the end of this book, Arthur declares that he and Celia should go to America to find their fortunes, it was too late for this reader. There’s no way I’m going to read the last book. I can’t put myself through another 400+ pages of this.