Book Review: We All Fall Down Stories of Plague and Resilience.
We All Fall Down
Stories of Plague and Resilience
By Kristin Gleeson,
Lisa J. Yarde, Laura Morelli, J. K. Knauss, David Blixt, Jean Gill, Deborah Swift, Katherine Pym, Melodie Winawer
Plague has no favorites. In this anthology, USA Today, international bestselling, and award-winning authors imagine a world where anyone—rich, poor, young, old—might be well in the morning and dead by sundown. Readers will follow in the footsteps of those who fought to rebuild shattered lives as the plague left desolation in its wake. * An Irish woman tends her dying father while the Normans threaten her life and property— * A Hispano-Muslim doctor fights the authorities to stem the spread of the deadly pestilence at great personal cost— * A Tuscan street hawker and a fresco painter watch citizens perish all around them even as they paint a better future— * A Spanish noblewoman lives at the mercy of a jealous queen after plague kills the king— * The Black Death leaves an uncertain legacy to Dante’s son— * In Venice, the artist Titian agonizes over a death in obscurity— * A Scottish thief loses everything to plague and repents in the hope of preventing more losses— * Two teenagers from 2020 time-travel to plague-stricken London and are forever changed— * And when death rules in Ottoman-occupied Greece, a Turk decides his own fate. Nine tales bound together by humanity’s fortitude in the face of despair: a powerful collection of stories for our own time. In dark and deadly times, love and courage shine bright.
“In my youth, I imagined what Death was like. I tried to picture my own death. I remember hoping for a “good” death. As if there could be such a thing.”
"On All Our Houses" by David Blixt
It was a pestilence, an epidemic, a plague. History would remember it as den sorte død — The Black Death. But while those who survived tried to rebuild their lives, this was not the end. For the plague would come again and it would take more sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, and it would change the course of history forever…
We All Fall Down - Stories of Plague and Resilience by Kristin Gleeson, Lisa J. Yarde, Laura Morelli, J. K. Knauss, David Blixt, Jean Gill, Deborah Swift, Katherine Pym, Melodie Winawer is a collection of short stories that explores what life was like when The Black Death came calling.
Told with an enthralling sense of time and place, We All Fall Down - Stories of Plague and Resilience is a fascinating, if somewhat harrowing story, of nine very different people as the plague touches their lives with devastating consequences. From pauper to king, the plague did not differentiate. It struck without warning and killed, sometimes in hours. This is a novel which will resonate very much with today’s readers.
The short-stories in this book are richly detailed and emotionally charged, which left me reaching for the tissues on more than one occasion. The compelling narrative that captured the despair, the fear and the heartache, evoked a world where diseases were not understood, and the cures were often more brutal than the illness itself. The complete lack of understanding of the plague and the almost cavalier attitude that the economy and trade was more important than saving lives is played out with all of its greed. While the rich hid behind their high walls, the rest of the population was left to fend for itself. It is a stark reminder of how fragile life is and how money does not ensure immunity.
Kristin Gleeson takes her readers on a journey to Clyde in the middle of the 14th Century. This incredible story, set within the backdrop of the plague, demonstrates the evils of man as one individual tries to use the plague as a way to increase his own profits. “The Blood of the Gaels” is a story that I really enjoyed. Not only is it a story of death and disaster, but it is also one of love and hope. It was a fabulous book to open this anthology with.
We travel back in time to 17th Granada in Lisa J. Yarde’s “The Heretic”. Ibn al-Khatib dared to explore theories about how the disease was transmitted and much to the abhorrence of everyone else, how to contain it. This book gives the readers an intimate insight into the suffering and loss that Ibn al-Khatib suffered during this tragic period of history. I thought this book was exceptionally well written and incredibly insightful into the period and the man.
"Little Bird" by Laura Morelli was a wonderful story about a young girl who travels across medieval Tuscany with a band of cure sellers! I loved this story so much. Morelli gives her readers an intimate insight into the life of a travelling tradesman. The lengths they will go to, to sale their wares, were really quite extraordinary. Ironically, these so-called healers helped to spread this terrible disease. I thought Little Bird was fabulous from start to finish, and I could have easily read a full-length novel about this young girl’s adventures.
J. K. Knauss' lavish attention to the historical detail in her fabulous story "Footsteps" has to be commended. Oh, how I loved this story. Knauss' depiction of Leonor Núñez de Guzmán y Ponce de León was sublime. This is a story that captured the essence of the era. Wonderful, wonderful storytelling.
We travel next to Gargagnago, Italy, where a father is contemplating life as his daughter's body is ravished with the plague. "On All Our Houses" by David Blixt is a heartbreakingly tender story of a man who has to watch the people he loves succumb to the plague while he, for some reason, does not. This is a story that really draws the reader in and does not let go until that final full stop.
Told from Deaths point of view "A Certain Shade of Red" by Jean Gill sent shivers down my spine. Portraying the final hours of Renaissance artist Tiziano “Titian,” Vecell, Gill has penned an utterly enthralling story. This story really captured my imagination and I loved every second of it. My only complaint was that it was much too short!
My favourite story in this anthology was "The Repentant Thief" by Deborah Swift. Swift sweeps her readers back to 17th Century Edinburgh where the authorities try to contain the plague by moving the inflicted and those who had been in contact with the disease into makeshift camps. This story is a tear-jerking tale about a young boy who thinks he has brought the plague down upon his family because he stole a necklace. The horrific conditions of the camp and the swiftness of the disease are portrayed in all of its horrifying detail. This is a story that will stay with me for a long time.
Taking a slightly different approach, Katherine Pym has presented her readers with a time-travelling tale in "Arrows that Fly in the Dark." The two young protagonists fall through time to plague-ridden London. With modern-day knowledge, the protagonists can only watch and observe as the doctor tends his patients. I think this would be the last place any time-traveller would want to end up and I thought this story was really refreshing and exceptionally real in the telling. Being thrown into an era where medical advances were slow and basic hygiene was not observed is a terrible thing to witness. Kudos Ms Pym for thinking outside of the box.
We are heading to 17th century Greece in the last short-story in this anthology. "778" by Melodie Winawer was enchanting from start to finish and one I simply could not put down. From the meticulously researched history to the sumptuously addictive narrative, this is the kind of story that threatens to mesmerise.
We All Fall Down - Stories of Plague and Resilience is an ambitious but very successful anthology. The topic may be dark, but the stories are marvellous. And the stories are short enough to be enjoyed over a quick coffee break.
I Highly Recommend.
Review by Mary Anne Yarde.
The Coffee Pot Book Club.