A sweeping evocative epic of three generations.
Tim Pears was born in 1956. He grew up in Devon, and left school at sixteen. He has worked in a wide variety of jobs and is a graduate of the National Film and Television School. His first novel, In the Place of Fallen Leaves, won the Hawthornden Prize for Literature and the Ruth Hadden Memorial Award. His second novel, In a Land of Plenty, has been adapted for television and is now a major BBC television series. His third novel is A Revolution of the Sun.
There are moments when Pears's talent shines as brightly as it did in his debut, In the Place of Falling Leaves, but this big novel lacks the binding gravity required to unify its satellite plots and characters. The family chronicle, which spans 40 years, begins in 1952, when, days before their wedding, Charles and Mary Freeman purchase a mansion on a hill above a small English mill town. Soon, their home is filled with children (Simon, James, Robert and Alice); servants and their children; relatives and friends. Like the crowded house, the narrative is in constant commotion but lacks a cohesive order. Eventually, however, the novel focuses on James and his adolescent desire to seek a place in the world amidst increasing alienation from his family. These tensions culminate in an enraged encounter and complete estrangement. As James involves himself in new experiences, he nurtures a consuming interest in photography, which allows him to develop a sense of place in the community. The story returns frequently to the mansion, which maintains a tight hold on the rest of the family. A movie theater in town, owned by his cousin Zoe, is also important in maintaining James's limited contact with his family. In his descriptions of the ordinary events in James's life, Pears beautifully evokes a young man's search for a home. In the end, James does find that place: in a fulfilling relationship with a woman, through his photography and, finally, in a reunion with his family. Pears is a fine, thoughtful writer, but this novel's loose construction mutes the impact of some genuinely powerful work. (Mar.)
This sweeping family saga concerns the Fremans, who bear a passing resemblance to the privileged hons and rebels of the early Mitford era. Charles Freeman is an autocratic brute of a patriarch who inherits his family's failing metalworks plant and turns it to profit. He marries Mary, a quiet poet, who never finds her place in the world and takes an early exit. Together, they buy the big house on the hill and produce a motley band of four children. From 1952 to the present, family members experience estrangement and reconciliations, love affairs and loveless marriages against a backdrop of the events and fads of the decades, from postwar prosperity through the rise and fall ot Thatcherism to corporate downsizing and privatization. In this great big novel, a social history of the latter half of this century, Pears (In the Place of Fallen Leaves, Donald I. Fine, 1995) affords his characters the luxury of time and space to become fully realized. Recommended for all public libraries.‘Barbara Love, Kingston P.L., Ontario