The Fall of Light
by Niall Williams
Book Review by Amy Coffin
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The Fall of Light chronicles the lives of the Foley family in 19th century Ireland and beyond. The beginning of this Niall Williams book has Francis Foley and his four sons on the run. Emer Foley left her family the previous evening. Francis, fed up with the hand he's been dealt and the sudden departure of his wife, steals a prized telescope from his landlord and sets his house on fire.

With the authorities on their tale, Francis, Tomas, twins Finbar and Finan, and young Teige make their way through the harsh Irish countryside. Soon enough, the boys are tragically separated from their father. Time moves on and the boys go their separate ways. The Fall of Light follows the Foley men on three continents as they spend their lives searching for each other and Emer.

The story is quite simple, but the tale is magical. Williams has a gift for written imagery. His descriptions of the physical landscape make Ireland come alive for the reader. The novel begins slowly with a little too much description. However, when the boys' separate fates are established the adventure really begins.

The Fall of Light has a little bit of everything and most readers will find something they enjoy in the tale. There's fantasy, romance, adventure, tragedy and triumph. The story is presented as an oral history, told and re-told through the generations with embellishments added as needed. The result is a captivating legend "linking the living and the dead," as the author explains.

Though poor Finan gets the short end of the story's stick with little mention, the other brothers arrive at interesting conclusions. The end of the tale answers all questions regarding the characters. The Fall of Light is a satisfying book. All voracious readers have a "to be read" pile and Niall Williams's work should be on top of that stack.


Also set in Ireland:
A Winter Marriage
by Kerry Hardie