Alice Falling

Alice Falling

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William Wall is an Irish poet whose first novel is lyrical in the best way: It’s evocative and open-ended; it creates intense atmosphere with a light touch; and it’s laser-like in its dissection of human frailties. It can also be almost unbearably brutal in its portrayal of two couples who have reached the Sargasso Sea of middle age, where conflicting currents of power, pain and the past stifle all hope and threaten to take down the friends and lovers who flounder around them. Alice is the long-suffering wife of Paddy Lynch, a take-no-prisoners type who owns a software firm called, tellingly enough, Micro Solutions: “His belief was in binary codes, the esoteric world of noughts and ones where every choice is simple and every event is a switch that is either on or off.” Their best friends are Mick Delany, a former champion hurler who’s now an insurance man, and his wife, Nora, a former free spirit who’s now drowning in anti-depressants and who might be secretly in love with Paddy. While Alice–whose not-so-buried memories of abuse at the hands of a parish priest form the book’s roiling core–steals off with a Kierkegaard-obsessed undergraduate, Wall allows us to realize that Paddy is more than just a soulless jerk: He’s conducting a vicious and violent affair of his own. As the betrayals mount, Alice too becomes increasingly dangerous (as only a trapped creature can be), making “Alice Falling,” in the end, an exceedingly bitter pill–sleek, unsugared and determined to devastate.
Mark Rozzo in the L.A. Times
Wall, who is also a poet, writes prose so charged—at once lyrical and syncopated—that it’s as if Cavafy had decided to write about a violent Irish household.
The New Yorker


As a novelist Wall is technically skilful. Timeshifts, memories and monologues create a continual tension between Alice’s fearful past and her heartless present. Wall goes deeper into the complexities of characterisation than many contemporary novelists. His people are vividly, credibly inconstant: shifting viewpoints and the vagaries of their relationships show them now sympathetic, now inept or calculating.

The Irish Independent

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