The Opposite of Falling – Jennie Rooney

Ursula Bridgewater, is unmarried after being jilted by her fiance. She seems to take this in her stride and she has rather embraced her single life, and wants to take her independence and explore the world. Her reasons for doing so are probably about thirty years ahead of their time, because it is the 1860s and women have only one role to play.

Thanks to Thomas Cook, who is starting out his business with escorted tours all over the world, Ursula embarks on journeys and adventures which take her to places that have only been seen through the words of others describing them. She could only read about such paces not actually visit them.  In contrast her young companion she selects for the journey to America and to Niagara Falls, Sally has no ambition she is an orphan. She is sure that she will simply live in a service role for the rest of her life, whether it be in the orphanage or out of it. Sally has some sort of spirit that makes her stand out from the rest which was the result of a rather upsetting encounter when her mother dies. Sister Thomas of Holy Ghost thinks her spirit is not of a godly one and when after some rather strange events at the orphanage occur, Sally is somewhat rescued by Ursula.

They encounter a man Toby O’Hara who just like Ursula is ahead of his time, he has much more freedom of course being a man but he is trying to do something, he is trying to fly. He has something to prove to his father about the obsession of flying and put right something that happened to him in the past. A memory that has seemed to haunt him and haunted his father as well. When he travels to Niagara Falls where he sees an opportunity of viewing the great water from a different angle – from above he encounters this rather strong independent woman Ursula and her rather quiet shy companion Sally. For all of them, being up in the sky floating is going to change their worlds forever.

This is a book which I cannot neatly describe where it should fit. It is a crafted story, as delicate as the machine that Toby is trying to create as well as a novel where fears are challenged and the time period 1860s and 1870s Liverpool and America bring with it a historical setting. It is a very slow novel, I think as reflection of how slowly times was changing for everyone for independent women as well as inventors of the future. In some places perhaps it was two slow and I was expecting a much more pacier read. However, upon reflection it would not have been a book which stuck with you as much if it. This was a book of discovery and after so long I wanted to see how it was all going to end for the characters, it just took me a while to understand them. It might not necessarily take you as long?

I picked this book up to read, because I recall seeing it on another blog many moons ago and so it had been sat in my wish list on amazon for a while. Then when I saw that Jennie Rooney was coming to a reading event I was going to, I thought I should read it and see what sort of book it was and whether I was going to enjoy listening to her. I did enjoy listening to her, but I think her current novel Red Joan, maybe a bit more my sort of book. What I did like with this particular novel was that she took real life events, the start of Thomas Cook and his tours and the flying machines made them into stories and gave voices to people who were experiencing such things. 

Books · Witterings

Reader’s Day – newbooks Magazine 2013

They did it again. Guy, Alison and Madeline plus many others at newbooks magazine decided to do it again and do it better for their second Reader’s Day. You can read all about the first one here.

And they did it again with aplomb!

Having learnt from last year, it was different venue, more spacious, more light. Refreshments were included and this time so was lunch!   Which I must say far exceeded the lunch I had at Guildford Book Festival Readers Day. Thank you Jane. They even managed to somehow sway the weather so it was dry enough to make use of the outside space once lunch came. My only observation that perhaps time allocated for lunch could have been a little bit shorter – say 45 minutes, as many were drifting back and there was a little bit too much hanging around.

However minor this may be the authors were certainly not. They were now in the major category. First up was Sadie Jones, author of The Outcast, Small Wars and The Uninvited Guests who have seen speak before (Guildford Book Festival) all books I have read and enjoyed and all books which were something so completely different from the one before. Sadie is lovely to listen to and I look forward to her new book.

Next up, in a rather female dominated first half (Guy was certainly outnumbered any way during the whole day!) was Jennie Rooney who was there to talk about her book Red Joan, but also about her life. I had started The Opposite of Falling and was around half way through so I took that with me to be signed. She kindly did and wrote that I needed to finish it too! I have obeyed these instructions and did. What fascinated me about Jennie was she was much younger than me and had done so much with her life, and in fact being an author was not her full time role, this was merely a sideline or perhaps her main job as a lawyer at the FA is really the sideline?

Red Joan sounds like a novel that I would enjoy and I have added it to my list of ‘to reads’. Popular as it was on the day, where they were selling books they had run out of all of them. I actually did not buy any books whilst there – finances dictated as such, which was a shame as I could quite easily have bought many and had them all signed.

Still outnumbered Guy introduced us to two male authors, for the afternoon session – one I had heard of Ben Aaronvitch, who has apparently a cult following and one I had not Fergus McNeill, a debut author and a local at that. I had no idea what I was expecting and I was certainly surprised.

First up on stage Ben Aaronvitch was witty, wise. Why does he base his books in London – that is what he knows and where he lives – why make hard work for yourself? He has that edge of cynical humour that made me wonder – ‘why have I not read any of this man’s books?’. The reason was probably summed up by another lady in the audience – that because they are pitched as fantasy and science fiction they are alienating many a new reader. So say I too. Two categories which I get no enjoyment from at all, with the probable exception of Harry Potter. I aim to rectify this and spread the word. I have dug out an old copy of newbooks where he has been featured and I am starting to be introduced to Peter Grant. It had some reminiscences of the Bryant and May stories by Christopher Fowler and I enjoy them so I should see no reason why I should not enjoy these.

Now you could say Fergus McNeill had a lot to live up to. He did but he did it so well, that actually referring back to Ben’s point of being annoyed about being asked the question – why write about London? Fergus actually went through many journeys, train and walking to get the experience of some of his characters. Even featuring a house that ends up being the place in a the book that someone gets murdered – and then meeting said owner of the house. To the point where actually it became it bit too real and then when real life events suddenly took over one Christmas, it seemed his debut novel was about to never reach the book shop shelf. It did and I think if you are a fan of crime, you are going to enjoy these, more so for me as some of the places are fairly local there is always that recognition bit which brings that element of reality to it all.

And as I said at the beginning Guy, et al have done it again! They successfully combined four very different authors with a room full of very different readers who have come from far and not so far to experience a very full and educating Saturday. I wish I had the money to have bought books, I wish I was not feeling so ill that I was debating about whether I was going to make it or not, I am glad I did, but it probably set me back a few days recovery. I wish that I could attend such events as these more often.

I loved listening in to conversations on books and I recognised a few people from last years event. I would have been more communicative if I had been a bit brighter. I was not quite sure about the relevance of the name badges, was it needed or not? Although mine did cover up where I dropped toothpaste down my top, so it did have a use. I also did something which has perhaps given a gilded view on my day as I write this days after I went. I did not make any notes, simply I forgot, but actually spotting someone who was making copious notes I wondered if I picked up more than I would have done, as I was so intent on listening. Pausing to write you can sometimes lose the next thing that is said. You want to savor the day as much as you can and it is always difficult to get it right.

I look forward to see who they get next year, and I will be there without any doubt, especially when I know what I am getting and it is a mere train journey away for me.