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Fallen Skies by Philippa Gregory

Historical Fiction, Lost Generation

Fallen Skies is the story of a changing world; a lost generation. Much darker than many of Philippa Gregory’s other fiction novels, the novel is set in a time when many men did not come home, and many of those who did were, in some way, irreparably damaged.

About Fallen Skies by Philippa Gregory

Enter Stephen Winters, a so-called war hero and middle-class gentleman in post-war England. Returned from more than two years in Belgium, Stephen has come home to an ill father and a mourning mother – Stephen’s older brother was killed in the early days of the war.

Stephen did not come home well, either. He awakes each night with nightmares of the carnage he faced while in the trenches, stutters when he talks of the war, and spends his nights with his mute batman and chauffeur. That’s not to mention Stephen’s savagery and disregard for human life.

When Stephen lays eyes on Lily, though, he believes it all will change. A 17-year-old singer, Lily seems to be untouched by the war. Because she lost her father during the early days, Lily likes to pretend the war never happened. Talented and driven by her protective mother, Lily plans to be a star one-day.

That is, until her mother dies, and she has nowhere to go and no money to survive. Despite the love between Lily and her stage directory, Charlie, Lily is forced to marry Stephen and step foot into a new class – a new world, really – in which she feels alone and oppressed, until she starts to make it her own.

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Historical Fiction: Post World War I Commentary

Originally published in 1993 and reissued in 2008, Fallen Skies is as much a commentary on post-World War I Britain as it is a historical fiction novel. Gregory deftly uses Lily to symbolize a change in the times, in which women, who had been running the country alone while men were off to war, steadily gained more rights and independence. She uses Stephen to symbolize an entire lost generation of men – men who struggled to readapt to every days life in a changing world, who, if they weren’t missing limbs or appendages, were missing parts of their sanity.

Because of the manner in which Gregory has written Fallen Skies, reading the book is much like peeling an onion. Though slow-paced at times, Gregory manages to keep the reader captivated, while she slowly uncovers more and more about each character, especially Stephen, allowing the reader to get a better idea of what causes the characters to act in the way they do. Gregory has created well-developed, complex characters that evoke strong emotions, giving the reader a reason to carry on with the novel.

That being said, the novel is dark, and at times, depressing. Stephen, the character to really makes the novel move forward, is sick, abusive and destructive. Through the use of beatings, rape and pregnancy, he manipulates Lily and those around him to act in the manner that he deems best.

Lily is the bright spot in the book, refusing at times to bend to Stephen’s wishes. She engages in a bit of manipulation on her own, using her strong character and backbone to give the story personality and optimism.

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Despite the dark undertones, Fallen Skies is engaging, entertaining and nearly irresistible.

That being said, the novel becomes a bit disjointed at the end, when the story shifts from a coming-of-age novel to a mystery, all within a few paragraphs. Perhaps it’s fitting when thinking about the personality of Stephen and other troubled individuals, as for a time, the shift simply does not make sense. It’s a little difficult to digest and skip from one mindset to the other, but in the end, Gregory manages to pull it off and make it entertaining – but once again, very dark – for the reader.

Fallen Skies
was republished in 2008 by Touchstone. ISBN: 978-1-4165-9314-0

Read other Philippa Gregory Reviews by this author:
Philippa Gregory Novels – Anthology of Gregory’s Work and Biographical Information about the Author
Earthly Joys – Story of John Tradescant, Gardener to King James and George Villliers, Lord Buckingham