Book Review : Fallen by Lia Mills

July 17, 2014 Book review 6 ★★★½

This is book that brings history to life. It immersed me into the 1916 Dublin Easter Rising and I came away not only having really enjoyed the book but also feeling liked I gained some fresh perspective on the events. Plus there is a love story but it’s not the usual fairytale love story instead it’s more like an anti-fairytale. It’s gritty, contradictory and complicated as life so often is.

Book Review : Fallen by Lia MillsFallen by Lia Mills
Published by Penguin UK on 2014-06-05
Genres: Historical
Pages: 288
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Buy on Amazon

A remarkable love story amidst the ruins of the First World War and the Easter Rising Spring, 1915.  Katie Crilly gets the news she dreaded: her beloved twin brother, Liam, has been killed on the Western Front.

A year later, when her home city of Dublin is suddenly engulfed in violence, Katie finds herself torn by conflicting emotions.  Taking refuge in the home of a friend, she meets Hubie Wilson, a friend of Liam's from the Front.  There unfolds a remarkable encounter between two young people, both wounded and both trying to imagine a new life.

First Line of Fallen by Lia Mills:

 That August was unnatural

My Thoughts on Fallen by Lia Mills:

The themes of war and grief are central to this book and both are explored and vividly portrayed. The main character Katie is from an affluent area of Dublin and has just finished her degree in college. Her parents have put their foot down about her continuing on to further studies as they don’t see the need for it and she is drifting along with no sense of purpose to her life.

Meanwhile her twin brother Liam is fighting on the Western Front in World War 1 and even though both are in very different circumstances, both are feeling the same sense of hopelessness about their lives. Most of Liam’s story is told though his letters to his sister and through them we get glimpses of a man whose spirit is being broken day by day by what he has to see and do. And then Dublin is plunged into the Rising between the Irish Rebels and the British troops who were occupying Ireland.

I really appreciated that the book was told through the perspective of someone not directly involved in the Rising. This way you got to see what the events felt like for the majority of Dublin’s residents. The first that Katie knew about the rising was when she was walking in St Stephens Green with her niece to feed the ducks. Such an ordinary event and something I have often done myself in the exact same location so I could just feel her shock and confusion when she was approached by a gunman and told to exit the part as it was being seized by the rebels.

Because I could picture the scene so vividly, it brought the past to life for me and I couldn’t help but imagine the chaos and turmoil in all the surrounding buildings and streets. And what followed just seemed to be mass confusion, with people not taking it seriously at first (even watching from hotels) until the inevitable bloodshed starts.

As you might expect this is not a light book as the topics covered are ones to make you think about war and death. However at the same time, it remains very easy to read and never really gets into the political side of things. It shows the events through a young woman’s eyes and her ponderings to try and make sense of the volatile world that she inhabits. In the midst of all this she is also having her first experiences with love which adds a slightly lighter element.

A huge highlight of the book is the writing. It flows really well and is poetic in places. I found that the writing and the ideas expressed were ones that really stopped me in my tracks at times and made me reflect further on what the author was getting at. It is a book that doesn’t hand you any answers (even at the end of the book) but challenges you to think for yourself.

Overall, I enjoyed this and I came away feeling that I had learned something new about the Rising. I did find the pace lulling a little at the end but overall impression is still a really favourable one and it is one the most unique books I have read this year.


Rating Report
Did I feel it?
Overall: three-half-stars


Who should read Fallen by Lia Mills?

I’d recommend this to fans of historical fiction especially if you like to see serious themes examined (in particular war and grief), to anyone who wants to know more about the 1916 Rising in Dublin (good to refresh your memory in advance of the 2016 centenary commemorations!) and to those who are tired of sappy romances and want something gritty to sink their teeth into. Fans of Louisa Young should also enjoy this one.

Thanks to NetGalley and Penguin for giving me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.


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6 Responses to “Book Review : Fallen by Lia Mills”

    • trish

      I know, it’s such as easy way to get some new facts into your brain! I love how historical fiction can make you see something from a different perspective too.

  1. Rita @ My Home of Books

    I would love to find out more about historical events in Europe– and Ireland specifically. My husband’s people are from Republic of Ireland and I have learned a bit of your history through him and some of my reads. It sounds like the kind of romance I enjoy–not insta-love, but a mature coming together. Thanks for sharing this!

    • trish

      This is a good one Rita for finding out some more! I would recommending just reading some basic facts about 1916 first just to put it in context if you are not familiar with the rising story.

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