The Fall
by Simon Mawer
Book Review by Amy Coffin
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A middle-aged man is climbing a sheer cliff without assistance or safety equipment. In front of horrified onlookers, he falls to his death. The man is identified as Jim Matthewson, an accomplished climber whose experience adds mystery to his careless death.

Rob Dewar hears of his childhood friend's demise. He immediately drives to Wales to comfort Jim's widow, Ruth. The difficult journey stirs memories of the past. Jim and Rob were once inseparable, spending their youth chasing treacherous climbing routes. The arrival of Ruth complicated matters and forced unspoken issues into the open.

The Fall examines the relationship between Jim and Rob, the foundation of which began with their mothers' friendship during World War II. Jim's mother, Caroline, was widowed when renowned climber Guy Matthewson froze to death on a peak in Nepal decades ago. Rob's mother, Diana, is linked to Guy with painful memories she tries to forget.

This Simon Mawer novel begins in the present day before bouncing between the 1960's friendship between Jim and Rob and that of their mothers in war-torn London decades earlier. The stories unfold to reveal the secrets each set of characters has been hiding for some time.

Much of The Fall takes place on the mountainside. The precise art of climbing is compared to the delicate nature of emotionally-intense relationships. The characters keep their distance from each other (and readers as well). However, the author unveils bits of their story in an engaging manner that keeps the pages turning.

Mawer has a firm grasp on the subtleties of complex relationships. They are as fragile as the perilous cliff-side climbs described in this novel. Pay careful attention to the details. The stunning ending of The Fall will throw you for a loop.