The Art of Falling, by Danielle McLaughlin | John Murray Press| Hardback £16.99
by Laura King
The Art of Falling is an assured new novel from the author of the widely acclaimed short story collection Dinosaurs on Other Planets (Stinging Fly 2014).
It’s clear from the opening pages that Danielle McLaughlin is a skilled, deft writer, and while the initial premise may sound like something you’ve read before, McLaughlin subtly challenges what we may expect of the story and its main character, Nessa.
Nessa is all about keeping up appearances while she deals with the emotional after-shocks of her husband’s affair, and its consequences for her daughter. All this happens at a turning point in her career: an art historian, she has curated an exhibition of a notable sculptor, Robert Locke, after years of research.
On the surface Nessa is controlled; this aggravates her rebellious daughter and somewhat repentant husband. However, as the book goes on, secrets that were thought to be long buried resurface, and this control begins to slip.
Meeting an old lover, another claim over the sculptor’s work, and the past which seeps into the present, all disrupt Nessa’s sense of self and control, and the ripples of this are felt in the reader, as reliability turns questionable. To me this is one of the most interesting aspects of the book—the way that McLaughlin reveals change.
This is not a novel that aims to surprise in its plot, but rather deals in slow revelation. The Art of Falling is a slow burn; it takes its time getting started but you are rewarded for sticking with it. It is a novel that explores the secrets all families keep, the reality behind the stories of famous artists, and the ever-changing relationship between truth, and who has the power to tell it.