Little, Brown, Dec 2002, 24.95, 370 pp.
Rob Dewar is driving home to his family when he hears on the radio about the death of his friend Jamie Matthewson from a mountain climbing fall. Though he and Jamie had not spoken in years, Rob heads to Wales to learn what went wrong and to provide comfort to his buddy's widow Ruth.
Rob begins learning about his deceased friend, the man's family, and his own parents, more than he probably wants to know. He finds out that Jamie's father Guy and Diana Sheridan fell in love and shared a night together in 1940. However, while Guy is a conscientious objector married to a German wife, Diana heads to London to work as a nurse. She ends their affair and aborts the fetus. She marries, but that relationship fails as Guy has her love. After World War II ends, Guy and Diana meet, but though she is free he is now married to Meg. Still they share one last night of love.
The historical tidbits bring alive the 1940s and 1960s. The characters are three-dimensional and are very complex. The story line is richly textured as readers observe how star-crossed lovers survive though not with one another. With all that going and Simon Mawer's usual strong prose, the novel falls a bit short because the secret once revealed seems insignificant in the scheme of life. Still though not quite a MENDEL'S DWARF, THE FALL displays the talent of Mr. Mawer to tell a tale that will provide much pleasure to fans of complex relationship dramas.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner