Review published on March 23, 2015. Reviewed by Brendan Wright
Nudge Reviewer Rating:
Falling Out of Time is a gentle novel, written in the wake of the author’s own bereavement. Set in a town in which each person is grieving the loss of a child, it shows the effect of death on those left behind, as well as the slow healing process.
The story is told by the town herald, who has been tasked with finding out about the people of the town, watching over them and listening to their conversations, interviewing them at times. There’s a voyeuristic quality to some of it, watching others dealing with such pain. The novel starts with a discussion between husband and wife about their dead son, killed at war. The husband announces that he is leaving in search of the son ‘there’, and begins his journey as ‘the walking man’, circling the town while others slowly join him to come to terms with their own loss.
The writing straddles poetry, a play script and prose at various points, making it a quick read, but it is by no means easy. It is full of pain, showing that absence can be more than just a hole where a loved one once was, but can itself be a force that turns still-living to half-dead, leaving a person paused in time and holding on to the deceased. It shows how death comes between those left behind, pushing them apart rather than allowing them to share their grief. It can be an assault on the emotions and an exhausting read, but as a poem to mourning, it is very moving, and evident how personal this book is to Grossman. He looks to question whether there are certain words or actions that can help deal with loss, or ways to reach the dead ‘there’.
The writing moves from simplicity, short stuttering sentences as characters lose their words and their way, to long, sometimes convoluted, thoughts as they struggle to find meaning in death. It is a sad book, with death at the very core of it. Yet despite this, it is full of energy in its telling and the actions of the characters; full of strength and a sense of community as the town moves together, breaking down class barriers, to share in their grief.
This is a wonderful, subtle novel, moving in its account of bereavement and how to overcome it. It is not an easy read, but it is rewarding, full of beautiful images and sentences, handling its subject gently without becoming overbearing. Despite it being so personal to Grossman, Falling Out of Time is a novel that will strike a chord with anyone who has suffered a loss and struggled to move beyond it.
The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro