Twins Aaron and Clive have been estranged for forty years. Aaron still lives in the empty, crumbling tower block on the riverside in Deptford where they grew up. Clive is a successful property developer, determined to turn the tower into luxury flats.
But Aaron is blocking the plan and their petty squabble becomes something much greater when two ghosts from the past – twins Annette and Christine – appear in the tower. At once, the desolate estate becomes a stage on which the events of one scorching summer are relived – a summer that shattered their lives, and changed everything forever…
Grim, evocative and exquisitely rendered, Fall is a story of friendship and family – of perception, fear and prejudice, the events that punctuate our journeys into adulthood, and the indelible scars they leave – a triumph of a novel that will affect you long after the final page has been turned.
Fall could not have been more different from Camel’s first novel Attend, this time the heatwave of 1976, two sets of twins, one black one white, all living in a new model estate in Deptford.
Aaron and Clive uprooted from the wealthy enclave of Blackheath to live their architect mothers experiment. Intrinsically entwined in each other’s minds, their differences only evident as fateful events unfolded.
Annette and Christine, students, inhabitants of a higher floor, charismatic, magnets to Aaron and Clive and to those around them.
The present day and Aaron and Clive are estranged, little known of Annette and Christine, the future of the tower block in the hands of Clive, Aaron the stalwart tenant unwilling to accept the money and move.
Immediately Camel made you aware something had happened, and you wanted to know why. Camel effortlessly took us back to the crazy heat of 1976, of teenagers enjoying evenings of music and friends, the residents restless, perturbed.
Even Zoe, the twins mother became agitated, protective of what she had created, accused of racism as what she deemed as black outsiders congregated on her estate.
I loved the sense of proprietorship Camel created as her vision appeared to crumble, Annette and Christine the instigators, the ones held responsible. Her boys, riled against her, as Camel slowly cracked the protective layer she had built around them. Was there something else that pushed her, that made her stand firm?
Of course there was a reason but Camel wasn’t going to let us in on it until the heatwave intensified, the tensions between the parties built to the point of imminent explosion.
A party, a confrontation, secrets, truths, a tragic event, questions, racism were thrust to the fore. Camel drove a huge chasm between Aaron and Clive, Clive the dominant twin, Aaron squashed, quietened. And what of Annette and Christine? What better way for Camel to make a point, their colour the one thing that went against them, the obvious targets, the ones that raised suspicions. The decisions Camel’s characters made were perhaps indicative of the social norms of the time, the truth full of hypocrisy, selfishness, damaging.
When Camel finally flew into present day, those past decisions came back to Clive and Aaron but this time with understanding, secrets unravelled that shuck them to their core. Would amends be made, differences set aside, a new future unfurl before them?
It all remained to be see but what was clear was Camel’s growing confidence as an author, to build on Attend, to showcase his attention to societal detail, to create wonderful multidimensional characters.
It was also a vivid and imaginative portrayal of the advent of the London tower block, the vision thrust on its inhabitants, the division between black and white, a huge chasm decked with suspicion and derision. Have we written the wrongs of the past or are we still striving to get there, all questions Camel asked, the answers for us to decide.
Whatever the morals, the ethics Fall was a dammed good novel of which West Camel should be immensely proud of.
I would like to thank Orenda Books for a copy of Fall to read and review and to Random Things Tours for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.
About the author
Born and bred in south London – and not the Somerset village with which he shares a name – West Camel worked as an editor in higher education and business before turning his attention to the arts and publishing. He has worked as a book and arts journalist, and was editor at Dalkey Archive Press, where he edited the Best European Fiction 2015 anthology, before moving to new press Orenda Books just after its launch. He currently combines his work as editor at Orenda with writing and editing a wide range of material for various arts organisations, including ghost-writing a New-Adult novel and editing The Riveter magazine for the European Literature Network. He has also written several short scripts, which have been produced in London’s fringe theatres, and was longlisted for the Old Vic’s 12 playwrights project. Attend, his first novel was shortlisted for the Polari prize.