Personal, Reviews

Fallen Land by Patrick Flanery

Why do I include personal information in book reviews?

I’ve thought about this question quite a bit. I do it for innumerable reasons and for reasons I can’t always explain. I do it to celebrate and remember when something good happens. I do it to try and find the humor in a shitty day at work. I do it because I want to remember how I perceived a book and why. I do it because I’m not sure that anyone, myself included, can ever objectively review a book – so I share the reasons* why I cannot be an unbiased reviewer and why a particular issue resonated with me. But then, as always happens in my little mock-contemplative mind, I ask myself why (again). Because ultimately, I’m embarrassed to share when something good happens, it feels a bit too ostentatious. I’m embarrassed to share when something bad happens; it feels too much like whining. Furthermore, I’m embarrassed to admit I’m embarrassed because there are so many bigger problems to worry about than the way anyone perceives me. And then I wonder how I’ve possibly made it to though most of my twenties without imploding…(no worries, I still have time). To quote the always wise Caitlin Moran:

Always remember that, nine times out of ten, you probably aren’t having a full-on nervous breakdown – you just need a cup of tea and a biscuit. You’d be amazed how easily and repeatedly you can confuse the two.

In the effort to connect my somewhat maudlin introduction to my current review, I’d like to point out that I’ve never had a breakdown, but that Paul Krovik has. In Patrick Flanery’s engaging new novel Fallen Land, Paul Krovik is driven insane by his own failure and the corruption of his personal value system. His dream? To build a luxury, neo-Victorian subdivision. Only the economy tanks, thus derailing the financial success of the development, bad financial decisions are made, his family is torn apart, and paranoia ensues. New residents Julia and Nathaniel arrive with their young son Copley, buying Krovik’s original dream house. To them, this suburb represents all they were trying to escape in Boston. It’s a fresh start, a chance at a better life, but the bitterness runs deep – literally and figuratively. As the characters embark on what can only be a collision course, this dark tale investigates the state of the American psyche.

Fallen Land

Although Fallen Land is a psychological novel, it is also a sociological meditation. It deals as heavily with the mental state of its characters as it does with issues plaguing America post-9/11. From unstable Krovik to young, troubled Copley, the characters are well-drawn and nuanced. Lurking underneath the plot’s surface is the questioning of the American dream, thoughts on immigration and racism, how personal freedoms are sacrificed in the name of security, prescription drug reliance, the ways our past can haunt us, and the effects of suburban sprawl. It is very much a novel of ‘big ideas’ – a simulacrum of the failings of American society. This makes the story as thought provoking as it is exhausting.

The novel’s atmosphere is a mix of dystopian and gothic, the characters suffering from a restless, unknowable fear. Emphasizing this is Nathaniel’s company, a forbidding and frightening security company that exacts a heavy toll on its employees simply by its expectations, and Copley’s recurring ‘dreams’. Ultimately it’s a dark, disturbing tale that is equal parts literary fiction and psychological thriller (perhaps William Faulkner meets Stephen King in Huxley’s Brave New World?). It eerily demonstrates the thin, malleable line between reason and madness and the illogical labyrinth of the American dream. It encourages the reader to ask: If someone wants you to be afraid, what can they gain by your fear? And furthermore, why is it so hard to really see what we fear? Read it. It’s the most thought provoking** novel I’ve read in a long time. 4/5***. For fun: The Guardian loved it, the New York Journal of Books hated it.

*So what are some of the revealing/embarrassing/inane things I’ve shared? (It’s no wonder why I’m so grateful for all of you, you put up with a lot.) 😉

**The novel is one of the most wholly depressing reading experiences I’ve had in a long, long time.
***I received this novel in exchange for my honest opinion.

1/2

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  • http://twitter.com/missbonnie13 Bonnie (@missbonnie13)

    You go on vacation EVERYWHERE. I think you should take me with you next time. I’ve never been to Vermont. lol
    This does sound like quite the depressing read. But dystopian and gothic? Two of my favorite things. Will have to keep it mind for a rainy day.

    • http://www.fourthstreetreview.com Rory

      Haha! It seems like it, but it never feels like it. You’re welcome to come. I’m heading to Vermont at the end of this month and maybe somewhere in the Caribbean this winter (this is still up in the air (pun!), I have credit card points to use). Or possibly San Francisco. This all depends if I get that job or not. If I do I won’t be traveling for 6 months or so.

      Without giving too much away, this book suffers from one of my biggest complaints about literary fiction. But it’s well written and does encourage you to think. So, I’d say maybe someday if you see it in a used book shop.

  • http://sarahsaysread.com Sarah Says Read

    I really enjoy your personal tidbits in your reviews. It makes your whole review seem so well thought out and complete.

    That being said, this one does sound a bit too depressing for me. Good, but depressing. And wow, you travel a lot! Or at least a lot compared to me, which could be said of a lot of people, lol.

    • http://www.fourthstreetreview.com Rory

      Well thank you, I try to keep things a bit left of center for fun – hoping people will remember me. 😉

      This is one of the books I’d read that encouraged me to ask for happy book recommendations. Because death, destruction, and anger.

      I love to travel. LOVE it. Except for the airports and the flying part. My life would be ideal if I could teleport.

  • http://gravatar.com/booksaremyfavouriteandbest booksaremyfavouriteandbest

    Book looks good.

    Keep sharing – I think so much of what we like/dislike about books depends on what’s happened/ing in your life at that time. I’m fairly certain that professional book reviewers are absolutely spewing that they can’t say things like “I hated this book, mostly because I had a shit day at work and the dude who made my sandwich at lunchtime was bloody rude.”

    • http://www.fourthstreetreview.com Rory

      If you ever do get a chance to pick it up, I’d be curious what you thought as someone outside the US. The US is…interesting…right now. I’m attempting to be polite about the state of things right now.

      And exactly. At least I’m honest that hey, I hauled three hundred pounds of used books in 90 degree heat today. That might be a contributing factor to why I chose this book (or why I didn’t like it).

  • http://cheapthrillsbookblog.wordpress.com Charleen

    Yes, I’m all for the sharing! I don’t do much of it myself (not on my book blog at any rate… though maybe I should rethink that…) but I love hearing about other people’s lives.

    • http://www.fourthstreetreview.com Rory

      It’s funny. I have a line between the things I share and the things I won’t. My personal life is off limits, it’s nobody’s business but my own. That being said, I occasionally share things about it on twitter – so the line is flexible. I typically share past info that doesn’t have the ability to hurt and/or embarrass anyone anymore.

      I love hearing about other peoples lives. I actually love vlogs too and have been toying with the idea of doing one. It’s fun to ‘know’ people you don’t ‘know’.

  • http://wordsforworms.wordpress.com Words for Worms

    I think what a person goes through has SUCH a profound influence on how he or she perceives a book. Most of my favorite bloggers share some personal details, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. I will probably skip this one because (personal detail) my brain chemistry isn’t what I’d call “ideal.” No need to have outside sources dragging me down into depression mode.

    • http://www.fourthstreetreview.com Rory

      Hey, mine isn’t either, unfortunately!

      I figure the exclamation point makes that fact slightly less depressing. Pun intended. I like knowing people and I think, in the book blog world, that comes from sharing personal reasons for loving, hating, or relating to a book.

      • http://wordsforworms.wordpress.com Words for Worms

        I think our broken brains are sexy! Positive spin, plus exclamation point!

  • http://missjomarch.booklikes.com Lori

    A bit of personal reference makes a review less one-dimensional and as Sarah said “well thought out and complete.” This book seems dark and from your review, I quite likely would have a nervous breakdown reading it and perhaps won’t go on my wishlist.
    Incidentally, saw Austenland this weekend. I enjoyed it but wish it were less campy. Thank you for the head’s up on staying through the credits

    • http://www.fourthstreetreview.com Rory

      This one is awfully dark, probably darker than I would normally read. I like dark fiction, but typically in a way that’s not believable. The world is evil enough without adding fictional imagining to it.

      I liked Austenland, but it didn’t wow me. It was cute and I do always enjoy Keri Russell. If you haven’t seen Waitress, I would highly recommend it.

  • http://picturemereading.wordpress.com picturemereading

    You personal references and great sense of humor are why I love you reviews..I think we have different genre tastes I still love hearing you thoughts on reading!

    • http://www.fourthstreetreview.com Rory

      Reading reviews of books that I;m unlikely to read is half the fun of book blogging. I glad you enjoy my sense of humor – or at least someone other than myself does!

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