After the Fall

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Category: Contemporary
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Date Published: January 1, 2013
Number of Pages: 188
Print Price: $13.44
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Fleischmann’s short novel is an ambitious attempt to discuss highly intimate relationships amongst the backdrop of a charged quasi-religious war, while inadvertently celebrating the triumph of virtue and the Catholic faith. The issue, however, is that it’s decidedly not inadvertent and at times entirely convenient how the story winds itself together - so much so, that you are almost hoping for one of the good hearted characters to meet an untimely end. This actually does happen—twice—but even then, it’s packaged so prettily, that it’s still hard to get away from the fact that everything is a little too convenient.

The story follows the lives of mainly Catholic parishioners at St. Botvid’s in the village of Gotby. A few errant Protestants feature here or there, but eventually convert, are irrelevant, or wind up being entirely godless. You do feel a bit sorry for them, in fact, what with their bumbling pastor, Adam Nygren, and his lame attempts at religion and romance. The main character, a kind of quiet and melancholic Catholic women, Maria, has to endure awkward Adam’s advances, but does little to help the situation herself. As her relationship progresses and we are introduced to the lives of several of Gotby’s residents, the whole war “thing” becomes a little more intrusive, and after a fall of sorts (you’ll see what Fleischmann and I did there); things start to heat up, quite unexpectedly.

By unexpected, I mean, unexpected. The novel is initially something of a bland array of characters sorting out their inner callings, grumblings and dispositions, until, quite suddenly, a head is literally getting chopped off. It isn’t gruesome or anything, it’s just, honestly, unexpected. The catalyst for a lot of what happens in the second half of the novel is the proclamation of a Marian dogma by the Church, which creates all kind of geopolitical issues, because of the history of the warring nations.

The history is a bit interesting, if not somewhat un-built. The story is set in the near future where radical changes have swept across Europe. These changes aren’t elaborated on, but for example, Germany and France no longer exist as nations. Sweden has broken up into Svealand and Gotland, where Maria and the other Gotby cranks live. There are planes and a King and an Act of Unity and bishops being excommunicated, but this is all revealed as side disclosures while the real action--men and women ruminating a lot about their feelings--takes place.

Tying it all together is an ambitious task; and while it does work out, I think it is a little too convenient to be believable. The story also jumps quite rapidly at times, both in terms of plot and the chronology. The story could do with “beefing up” both the history and the characters; however, I was kind of glad when it all came to the end - because some of the characters were really doing my head in. Eventually Adam comes to his senses, and goes back on his signing of the Act of Unity, writing “I am forced not by my own will, nor by anyone else’s, but by the inner voice of God.” The inner voice of God seems to sort out most of the characters, who pair off or otherwise find some sort of solace/role very, very, conveniently.

The novel is largely about different walks of life and relationships with each other and God. There are some salient moments of realization, but I found myself too frustrated with a lot of the characters to empathize with them by the time the light bulb clicked. There is a clear tenderness, however, that shines through, and I am confident this would be appreciated by many readers.

Reflections on the rural life and setting are also becoming and fit the development of the characters as well. It is clear that Fleischmann is in her element when talking about the sounds and surrounds of Gotby.

In total then, apart from a few surprises, the story is mainly about journeying towards God in the many different guises that you’d expect from a village community in the midst of a civil war and religious upheaval. The brave cast of characters, although almost entirely frustrating (at least to me) do kind of get somewhere, if not slowly and conveniently. Obviously many bad things have happened in Fleischmann’s futuristic Sweden, but the individuals find a way to pick themselves up. If you want something soft, slow and sensitive, then maybe this is for you.

The novel contains a good set of ideas then, but probably not enough fleshing out of them, considering the breadth of all that is going on. Passages of in depth writing work to compliment the sturdy array of ideas. All a little too slow for me, but that is probably how the villagers of Gotby like it.

Publisher:
ISBN-13: 978-1936453177
Original Language: English
Book Dimensions: 0.4 x 5.9 x 8.9 inches


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Joseph Devitt is a graduate from the University of Western Australia, where he recently completed his Bachelor of Commerce. He is a Past President of the UWA Catholic Society and Founding Editor of the Catholic magazine The Road to Emmaus. He is also a generally unsuccessful writer, with two unpublished novels and countless articles and attempts at shorter stories and poems. He is, however, a successful reader.


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