“Falling Angels” tells the story of two families, the Colemans and the Waterhouses in the transition from the Victorian to the modern Edwardian era. The Colemans are not your typical family. Kitty Coleman is educated well read and not content to just be a wife and mother. In fact, she didn’t want to be mother in the first place. Kitty and Richard’s marriage is strained, at best. The Waterhouses are much more standard middle class family. They adhere to the family standards of the day but the friendship between Maude Coleman and Livinia Waterhouse makes both families reexamine their values and roles.
One of the first things I noticed about this book is that death is everywhere. The two families meet in the cemetery on the day of Queen Victoria’s death. The cemetery then serves as the backdrop for many of the conflicts in the book. Having taught Victorian poetry, I was aware the Victorians were obsessed with death. However, reading this historical look at the Victorian made me aware just how much death dictated behavior in Victorian society. As death continues developing throughout the novel it merges with the sufragette theme that emerges mid way through. I didn’t quite put two and two together but after several significant deaths I began to see how the two are related. Especially considering that women’s rights movements are about women’s autonomy over their bodies and how much they didn’t have any control during this time.
This is a good book for a book club or a college history course. There’s enough history to give it some gravitas but not enough to make it feel like a history text book.