Alll Fall Down – A story of survival by Sally Nicholls
There are some things that have always fascinated me.
One is the mystery behind prehistoric stone circles. How were they erected? People have tried to explain, but it remains a mystery to me. Where did they find the big stones and how did they place them so accurately?
Another is whether there really is a Loch Ness Monster. Will I be alive when they discover one?
Relevant to this blog post is how on earth people carried on when everyone around them died, for example during a plague.
When a friend asked me recently what book I was reading, I told her that I was reading All Fall Down – A story of survival by Sally Nicholls. I told her that it is about the Black Death in 1349 and I received a very strange look. I started to burble on about how interesting I found the book. I am not sure that my friend looked convinced.
Sally Nicholls must have done careful research into daily living in those far-off days. She describes the food, the hard toil in the fields that belonged to the lord of the manor, the festivals and the strange superstitions. We learn about the influence of the church. Sally portrays some clergy who did not care much about their flock and abandoned them and yet others who gave their all in trying to say prayers over the dying.
We experience the emotions of these desperate days through the eyes of 13-year old Isabel. She has two older brothers, who have both left home. When her father and stepmother die she has to try and take charge of a younger brother and sister. She is a spirited girl who loves the land.
The story is told in the continuous present, which is not my favourite format, but seems just right for this story. I was propelled to the end, not knowing at all how things would work out. I think the ending is brave. It does not gloss over the horrors people have endured. Above all this story is powerful and thought-provoking.
This is Sally Nicholls’ third book. I have a copy of her first book, Ways to Live Forever which I also heartily recommend. If you decide to read All Fall Down, I hope that like me, despite the inevitable account of human suffering, you will find it beautifully constructed, beautifully written and an inspiring story.