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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This writer has a promising career ahead
This is the first novel by Canadian author McDonald, and winner of a Commonwealth writer's award. I can see why, I read it in two sittings on flights between Sydney and Tokyo and Tokyo to London. I was hooked, I finished it and then wished it was longer so I could continue reading. The plot is fairly convuleted and I don't have time to explain it right now, suffice to...
Published on 31 Oct. 2000

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Fall on your knees
I read "The way the crow flies" first which was remarkable and just so satisfying, and although the first quarter of that book really is an elaborate background set up for what happens in the middle and end, it never lost me. "Fall on your knees" though.... so depressing, awful people, awful crimes, awful times. I stuck with it for 2/3 of the book (took me about two...
Published on 18 Mar. 2011 by Trinny


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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This writer has a promising career ahead, 31 Oct. 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Fall On Your Knees (Paperback)
This is the first novel by Canadian author McDonald, and winner of a Commonwealth writer's award. I can see why, I read it in two sittings on flights between Sydney and Tokyo and Tokyo to London. I was hooked, I finished it and then wished it was longer so I could continue reading. The plot is fairly convuleted and I don't have time to explain it right now, suffice to say it is a thought provoking semi-Gothic story set in provincial Canada in the early decades of the twentieth century. It reminded me somewhat of Flannery O'Connor in parts. I eagerly await more from this remarkable author.
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quite simply, one of the most beautiful books ever written., 6 Aug. 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: Fall On Your Knees (Paperback)
I bought this book because of a recommendation from Oprah's book club, and it is her best yet.
This a gorgeous, intricate and truly thought-provoking story. The characters make your heart sad, sullen and soar by turns, and if you believe in 'love' at a very young age, this might challenge your ideas a bit. If you believe in the sanctity of the relationship and bond between a parent and a child, this is a crushing blow and eye opener to that belief. If you want to read a magnificently written, magnificent story, read Fall on your Knees. You'll read it again, and again.
Guaranteed pleasure.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Greek Tragedy on a Canadian Island, 13 Feb. 2012
By 
Kate Hopkins (London) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Fall On Your Knees (Paperback)
A story about a family whose tragedies rival those of the doomed House of Atreus in Greek drama, set on Cape Breton Island, Canada. Following the death of his mother, James Piper leaves his drunken father and goes out into the world, an adolescent boy with a passion for learning, to make his money as a piano-tuner. He is doing well when he falls suddenly in love (or lust) with Materia, the 13-year-old daughter of Lebanese immigrants. The couple elope, and in true Verdian style Materia's father curses James and his marriage. Things immediately begin to go wrong - Materia is a very young, innocent girl - an instinctive musician, which frustrates the music-loving but not too musical James - but no intellectual, and unable to join him in plans for education and self-improvement. James soon loses all love for his wife, who luckily finds some kindly friends in their Jewish neighbours, who teach her to cook. When Materia and James's daughter is born, James obsessively targets all his love into her, determining that little Kathleen will become a star opera singer. Years pass, and James's passion for his daughter grows until - as the shrewd Materia notices - it reaches a dangerous level. Eventually, having prayed non-stop to the Virgin Mary, Materia is able to rekindle her husband's passion for her, and she has two more daughters, Frances and Mercedes. James, realizing that his feelings for Kathleen are now out of control, leaves to fight in World War I - he is eventually invalided out (having made various attempts to get himself killed) and on his return to Canada sends Kathleen to continue her training as a singer in New York, intending that they should never live together again. Some months later, Kathleen mysteriously returns, and nine months after that, a family tragedy erupts which culminates in the birth of twins, and soon after the deaths of Kathleen, Materia and the boy of the two twins.

The novel then explores the lives of the surviving Pipers some years on. Mercedes has become the joyless, hard-working 'little mother' of the family, Frances - who played a terrible though innocent role in one of the deaths - is a hyperactive anorexic and wild adolescent, Lily, the surviving baby a sweet, dreamy girl, partially crippled with polio, and with a mysterious 'healing gift'. MacDonald tells us their story over several years: how James becomes a maker of illegal alcohol during Prohibition; how Mercedes loses her one chance at happiness when her boyfriend leaves the island and marries someone else and how she turns to religious fanaticism; how Frances, after a stint working as a cabaret artist in an illegal bar, gets pregnant by a local man of Caribbean extraction (for strange reasons that we find out during the course of the story); how Lily becomes Frances's protector; and how Mercedes, angered at her role as the 'good girl', eventually turns against both Frances and Lily with terrible results. The story then shifts back to the New York Jazz scene, where we learn the astonishing truth about Kathleen, before moving back to the stories of the three surviving sisters, ending with a startling and rather original conclusion. This is a book that will definitely keep you turning the pages.

There's a lot to enjoy in 'Fall on Your Knees', though you need a strong stomach for some sections, and MacDonald occasionally overdoes the tragedy which tips into melodrama (how many of his daughters is James meant to have sexually abused? Why doesn't Frances realize what Mercedes is doing to her? And was there really any need to kill off the family cat to produce a bit of added melodrama?). The atmosphere on the island, crowded with Jewish, Lebanese, Scots, Afro-American and French immigrants, is wonderfully evoked. The scenes in New York are brilliant - read this book for them if nothing else - and there is much fascinating historical information: I'd no idea, for example, that so many jazz players were cross-dressers. MacDonald also does a good job on bringing her vast cast of characters vividly to life, particularly the sisters, though I found Lily a tiny bit babyish and James slightly unbelievable as he got older (wouldn't he have been appallingly guilty about what he had done, and a lot more tormented?). I liked her writing about the Lebanese family and about the African-Canadian family, particularly beautiful Theresa, though it would have been interesting to know more about why Cape Breton was so ethnically diverse. As a drama of mystery, 'Fall on Your Knees' was very effective - I found myself desperately wanting to know how it would end and to tie up all the loose ends in the Piper family story. My main criticism - why I don't give the book five stars - was that, although constructed like a mythical tragedy, there was little of the sense of cleansing or resolution that the best tragedies give you. Granted, I suppose the visit to Lily in the last chapter was meant to provide this, but I couldn't help feeling that the ending was somewhat low-key and melancholy compared to the violent actions and huge passions of much of the story. Still - a very good and impressively researched read in many ways.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fall On Your Knees, 5 Jan. 2006
By A Customer
This review is from: Fall on your knees (Paperback)
This is a stunning book. It's pretty hard going in places, and I felt like the ending was a little out of place, but the characters, the build-up and the slow increments of what we understand are beautifully structured. The most impressive thing is that the book covers apalling things without ever needing to attach blame or emphasise them. They come to the forefront slowly and unavoidably, and are dealt with in such a human way - certainly in this novel, MacDonald's strength lies in her way of portraying humanity. A lot like Jeffrey Eugenides' 'Middlesex', in its interweaving of colour and race, new lands and old bigotry, and transgression.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fall On Your Knees, 9 Jan. 2007
This review is from: Fall On Your Knees (Paperback)
I mourn the fact that I've just finished this book. It's a tale so epic I thought about it every time I was forced to put it down.

The events in this story are tragic beyond belief, but it's written so beautifully whole sections feel poetic. Every single character (and there are many) is a complete person, the reader climbs inside their head, reads their thoughts, feels what they touch. Reminds me a bit of 'One Hundred Years of Solitude-I think in that there is tragedy locked in with amazing imagery. If you love gracefully written novels read this!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars canadian southern gothic, 1 Nov. 2006
This review is from: Fall On Your Knees (Paperback)
This is a great, great book. It should be better known in the UK and I will be recommending it to all my friends. It's basically a family saga in the Southern Gothic tradition, except set in a beautifully-evoked eastern Canada in the early part of the C20th. The plot has been well recapped elsewhere so I will just say that it principally deals with family relationships, especially those between sisters during their childhood & adolescence, and interracial relationships. The characters are all incredibly well developed and despite its length it's incredibly compelling.

People have complained that they found it depressing, but that's a far too reductive way of looking at it. It has harrowing moments because pretty much all the characters go through traumatic experiences, but it's not gratuitous in any way. There's plenty of joy too, and the description of first love in the final part of the book is possibly the best I have ever read. I also think that religion, cultural difference, race and class are well-observed. Overall this book is an incredibly moving and enriching experience. Some reference points from my own reading:

60% The Little Friend

20% Fried Green Tomatoes

10% Tipping The Velvet

10% Go Tell It On The Mountain

If you liked any of these books, go for this.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A real ghost story..., 26 July 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Fall On Your Knees (Paperback)
I began reading this book as I was revising for my exams. Bad move. This is one of those very few books which make you shudder with fear, laugh with joy, and the next moment cry with despair. The way MacDonald plays with words is extraordinary, and moves the story so close to you that you end up engrossed in the lives of this doomed family. The characters are both utterly unbelievable, and at the same time, so very, very real. It is a book that moves you as you read it, more so than most other books I have read. I would like to join another reviewer, and express my gratefulness to the author: This is really a great piece of literature. When it comes to rating this book with crowns, I have no choice but to give it 5 crowns. It is that good, even though the top-/bottom-ratings are overused. But nevermind that, simply read this book and find out for yourself. You deserve to read this great a story, and the sisters deserve to have their story told, and read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A once-in-a-lifetime experience, 2 Jun. 1998
By A Customer
There exists a select number of books with the ability of instantly captivating the reader and immersing him or her in a universe too credible to be false. Books which are addictive and capable of creating, like the old Greek dramas, a sort of catharsis-feeling by the end. "Fall on Your Knees" is such a book. A book which will stay with you for the rest of your life. A buy there's no chance you'll regret. The language floats almost languidly, caressing the reader and making him/her a passive part in a story of dimensions.
This, a story of a rather different Nova Scotian family stretching from the beginning of this century till the 1950s, is possibly one of the, if not to say THE, best book I've ever read. It really got to me. The surprising twists and turns, the wonderful use of symbols, and the way everything was inter-connected, almost made me lose my breath. The book's language didn't seem construed, but alive, breathing and natural. It's a book filled with delicious trepidation. It's a work of art. It's a masterpiece.
In short, a once-in-a-lifetime experience...
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Worth a money-back guarantee!, 20 May 1998
By A Customer
I purchased this book last Christmas while visiting a friend in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He offered me a money-back (and then some!) guarantee: "Buy this book," he said, "and if by page 75 you don't believe it's the best book you've ever read, call me and I'll send you $50 (Canadian!) to cover your expenses."
I bought it and tucked it away at the bottom of my reading stack. It finally found its way to the top two weeks ago, and I can say with certainty my friend will be keeping his $50. As almost all of the other reviews indicate, this is a fascinating, absorbing, powerful novel. MacDonald's characters are alive, and she draws the reader into the plot line with incredible subtlety and richly described settings. She has created and offered easy access to worlds both real and imagined. If you appreciate good writing and a great story, buy this book and read it. You won't want your money back!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars YOU CAN'T AFFORD NOT TO READ THIS BOOK!, 21 May 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Fall On Your Knees (Paperback)
This amazing book was recommended to me by another amazing author. I see what she meant! This is dazzling. Complex, witty, funny, but most of all tragic, this book is compelling from beginning to end. Having just finished it, I feel that MacDonald borders genius. The characters are all so wonderful, you will feel privelaged to have this in depth view of their tangled lives...... Just read it, and see for yourself.
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Fall On Your Knees
Fall On Your Knees by Ann-Marie MacDonald (Paperback - 3 July 1997)
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