Fallen Skies – Philippa Gregory

Ever wanted to read a story about the ugliness of the life post World War I? Set in the 1920’s, Fallen Skies is a story of a girl who makes a bad choice when it comes to men.

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From Publishers Weekly

After losing her father in the Great War, working-class girl Lily Pears becomes chorus girl Lily Valance to help support her widowed mother in Gregory’s moody 1920s historical. When her dreams of being a featured singer in a dance-hall revue are interrupted by her mother’s death, Lily accepts a marriage proposal from Stephen Winters, a regular at the stage door. Stephen, a reluctant but decorated WWI enlistee still wakes up screaming from the horrors he witnessed in the war and hopes marriage to the bubbly Lily will dispel his terror. But Lily’s entrée into the gloomy Winters family home saps her cheer, and singing onstage becomes her only joy. Predating her popular Tudor series, this novel (originally published in the U.K. in 1994 and being released for the first time stateside) attempts to give equal time to both halves of its unhappy couple with mixed results; the domestic misery and foiled longings will be familiar to fans of Gregory’s Boleyn work, but even if this is narrower in scope, it still has plenty of power. (Dec.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

For some the First World War never ended: for the wives and sweethearts of the men who didn’t return; and, especially, the men who did return, damaged beyond repair. This is the story of three who carried the horror of what happened to them into the ‘peace’ that followed – a deeply disturbing, empathetic, irresistible novel that kept us up all night. (Kirkus UK)

Philippa Gregory (The Other Queen, 2008, etc.) leaves Tudor gowns behind for the Jazz Age in this addictive tale, originally published in the United Kingdom in 1993, of two wounded soldiers and the pervasive cost of war.The novel begins with Stephen Winters recalling the Flanders fields of World War I, of the deep mud and bits of bodies underfoot, of the unrelenting terror of gunfire. Since his father’s stroke (at the news of favorite son Christopher’s death), Stephen has taken over the law practice, and he finds solace only with Coventry, his mute chauffer and wartime aid. Then he sees Lily Valance singing at the theater and is thunderstruck by the luminous joy of her face and voice – she reminds him of girls before the war, before everything was ruined. He courts her with his wealth, but his advances are rejected; Lily is 17 and in love with the theater’s musical director, Charlie Smith (though devoted to Lily, he refuses to marry her – a war wound has left him impotent). When Lily’s mother dies, Stephen, convinced Lily will cure him of his shell shock, coerces her into wedlock at her most vulnerable. Their honeymoon is a disaster (Stephen is sadistic and controlling), and the marriage continues in this vein when Stephen brings her to live with his mother Muriel, disapproving of the merchant-class theater girl, and his father Rory, upstairs and half-dead. But Lily is bright and resilient, and soon she is singing again professionally (after a fat lip from Stephen). She has Rory up and beginning to speak, and even Muriel begrudgingly admits Lily has an undeniable grace. Their house becomes fashionable with both society mavens and young bohemians – the only one not happy is Stephen, who has become more violent and unpredictable. When they have a little boy, the emotional torment really starts. The only bright spot in Lily’s life is Charlie Smith, who vows to save Lily and her son, if only he’s able before Stephen destroys them all.This great doorstop of a romantic tragedy illustrates Gregory’s winning formula: A young woman triumphs despite a hostile male society. (Kirkus Reviews) –This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

My Review

Rating: 3/5

fallen_skiesThis is the story of Lily – a cabaret dancer, who finds herself drifting away after her mother died and agrees to marry Captain Winters who offers her financial stability and the dream of a family.
All nice so far, a girl with a singing carrier gets married to a rich bloke.
Problem is, he does not encourage her singing, does not like her to behave in an unladylike manner and also abuses her sexually every time he gets the chance.
I’m not at all into marital rape (this is what it is) and there are plenty descriptions in the book on the occasions and the happenings.
I know they are there to make Captain Winters look like a bad-ass and he IS sick as he came back from war with a bit of a nerve damage, but honestly, if the guy I was married to decided to punish me for going singing by raping me, I would cut off his balls the moment he falls asleep.
That’s just me.

Anyways, the girl becomes pregnant and gives birth to an adorable baby boy. Daddy now finds himself the less liked person in the household as everyone’s attention is drawn to the cute baby.
To take the mother away from the kid, he hires a nanny who thinks that mothers should not show care and affection to their first born and should let them cry to sleep. (again another character I would de-ball)

A love triangle happens as captain Winters starts going out with Cabaret Girls and Lily starts seeing her old pal Charlie more. He is warm, cuddly and very manly, except the fact that he can never ever ever raise his willy due to a war injury.
Sad, no?
It gets a bit more twisted, as the baby disappears one day, kidnapped to be killed. I’m not going to say who did it – you have to read to find out.

Favourite scene: in the bedroom with Charlie before Lily’s mother died, Coventry smiling and cooing at the baby
Least favourite scene: Sexual abuse scenes.. Not fond of those.

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