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A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month September 2019 |
Sally Nicholls has a rare ability to tell a story from the past by making it both of its time and also accessible for today’s readers. Her characters are always credible people facing up to the great challenges of the day while her details of the period make her settings authentic too. Here, she takes a moment in history when the world was completely changed because of the number of people who died: 1349, the year of the Black Death. Thirteen year old Isobel tells her story, shying away from no details as she describes what she sees as the Plague strikes her family and the whole tight knit community of the Yorkshire village where she lives. Sally Nicholls pulls no punches in her telling of this dramatic story.
Julia Eccleshare's Picks for September 2019
Sophie Takes To The Sky by Katherine Woodfine
A House Without Walls by Elizabeth Laird
We Are All Greta by Valentina Gianella
Elmer: A Classic Collection Elmer's best loved tales by David McKee
The Fate of Fausto by Oliver Jeffers
All Fall Down by Sally Nicholls
A Letter From Author, Sally Nicholls
I’m thrilled that Andersen Press are re-publishing All Fall Down, but saddened that, in the seven years since it was first released, it seems to have become such a timely book. Dystopia has been in the air a lot over the last couple of years. There’s the rise of the far right in Europe and of antiimmigrant feeling at home, the fears about what might happen under a no-deal Brexit, and the increasingly urgent threat of climate breakdown, with the promise of food shortages, climate migrants, wildfires and societal collapse.
(It’s a very real threat. The last time CO2 levels were this high, we had palm trees on the North Pole. That’s the temperature our planetary oven is currently set to, and if we do nothing, that’s the temperature our slowly-heating oven will eventually reach. And we are not doing nothing. We are pumping more CO2 into the atmosphere every year.)
It’s frightening, but somehow hard to take seriously. We’re so used to living in a secure and settled society, we don’t really believe that it could change. And we don’t have much of a sense of what really happens to societies when things start to fall apart. How much do things need to go wrong before we actually get societal collapse? Does Blitz spirit really bring society together?
The Black Death of 1348-9 was not a dystopia. It was the single biggest catastrophe in historical memory. It is believed to have killed around 45% of the British population – by contrast, the First World War killed around 1.8%. When you add the Hundred Years’ War and the Great Famine of 1315-17 to the mix, it’s no surprise that the population of Europe halved in the fourteenth century.
I loved apocalypse novels when I was a teenager, so the Black Death interested me, because it was a real apocalypse. People living through it literally expected the four horsemen of the apocalypse to start walking the streets. I was interested in all the ways this apocalypse was different to fictional apocalypses. And all the ways it was the same.
There are more parallels with modern society (and particularly the climate crisis) and the fourteenth century than are perhaps comfortable. The first is a general assumption that the pestilence couldn’t come here. Western Europe was quite sanguine about plagues hitting Eastern non-Christian countries – they assumed it was the action of a vengeful God. Until it came to them.
England was pleased to think that the people of France would be killed by the pestilence. Until it came to England. And Scotland was delighted that its ancient enemies were being wiped out, until … You get the idea.
But there’s also hope. There’s always hope. Despite the horrific death rate, society did not break down. The years after the Black Death were actually ones of great social change. There were improvements in quality of life for villains, for women, and for the peasantry in general. Humans, it turns out, are good at survival. In general, if not individually.
I’ve read a lot of gloomy takes on climate breakdown over the last year, and it is easy to feel downhearted.
I do believe that times of great hardship and trouble are coming for our planet. But I do not believe that society is about to collapse. I believe we will work together and find a way through. But I believe we need to start facing that truth head on, if we’re going to survive it.
A deadly contagion races through England... Isabel and her family have nowhere to run from a disease that has killed half of Europe. When the world she knows and loves ends for ever, her only weapon is courage. The Black Death of 1349 was the deadliest plague in human history. All Fall Down is a powerful and inspiring story of survival in the face of real-life horror.
This is a gripping novel... children who love history's grisly bits will enjoy - We Love This Book
I was gripped by this book... Highly recommended - Historical Novel Society
An incredible story of survival and courage - Bookbag
A gripping and thought-provoking novel - The History Girls blog
Publication date: 04/04/2013
Publisher: Marion Lloyd Books an imprint of Scholastic
|Publication date:||5th September 2019|
|Publisher:||Andersen Press Ltd|
|Suitable for:||11+ readers, 13+ readers|
|Genres:||Historical Fiction, History, Personal Social Health Economic|
|Recommendations:||Julia Eccleshare's Picks|
I was born in Stockton-on-Tees, just after midnight, in a thunderstorm. My father died when I was two, and my brother Ian and I were brought up my mother. I always wanted to write - when people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I used to say "I'm going to be a writer" - very definite. I've always loved reading, and I spent most of my childhood trying to make real life as much like a book as possible. My friends and I had a secret club like the Secret Seven, and when I was ...More About Sally Nicholls
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