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Fall On Your Knees
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on 5 September 2013
I started this book on Tuesday and finished it reluctantly today, a fantastic, lyrical and incisive inspection of a family from the turn of the century in Cape Breton Island travelling to New York in the post Second World War period. Religion, nationality, culture and politics are threaded through this tale, written with a love and respect for the lives of women. Brilliant, why did no one tell me before?
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on 10 December 2013
You must read this book! However, it was much more tatty than I'd hoped, pages falling out and everything - not good!
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VINE VOICEon 29 February 2004
I read this book feeling slightly uncomfortable throughout. It wasn't exactly predictable per se, but there was a constant feeling that nothing good was going to come within this book.
It is depressing, but all due has to be given to the author, as it is very compelling too.
6 people found this helpful
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on 23 December 2014
Quite depressing, however writing is full of anticipation. I kept waiting for the book to take off but it didn't.
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on 18 January 2016
+++ WARNING: This is what the free software of the "world-leading translation software company"(!!!) translated my original German review from amazon.de into (sic!!!) - This is what I got, for being too lazy, too translate it myself. I almost collapsed, while reading it. Hilarious, so have fun! ++++

" In the year 1998 mine gave me knees” (foyk) into montreal living brother a book named “case on your, the straight in Canada as the best debut novel for sensation had provided - in the English original. The Hineintauchen into the ungwöhnliche structure of the novel required some effort. But during one period of some weeks, vergrub I formally therein, read myself slowly and carefully, was fascinated by the marvelous language of these Ann Marie MacDonald (AMM). Some sales and passages are written so fantastically poetic and obtain such an wonderful magical-surreal atmosphere that I wanted to read them 3-4 times one behind the other, to read had. Not least therefore I spent new facts thus over 8 virtual weeks on cape breton Iceland, scotia, canada.
AMM understands it masterfully to shift into the childlike view why I also with everything that happens to the sisters, so much sympathized. In my opinion this alive figure drawing of particularly the children the largest strength of AMM is even. This is valid also for successor Oman “where crows flies”, which I recommend to everyone, which likes this book here gladly.
see my criticism here:

all further qualities of “foyk” were already appreciated with the 15 criticisms with 5 stars ausführlichst. Reread please there!
Why I constantly speak of the original title “foyk” and me bristle against the inexpressibly kitschy German title “hear my begging” - no, I can not express it, äh - write - is because of the fact that this title and original deviating from more cover in group a completely wrong conception of topic and style of the book suggest. (and with this rough gaffe the marketing abbott. the German publishing house, also different readers have here a middle problem.) If I compare against it with the kandischen original “case on your knees”, then just this wonderful magical-surreal atmosphere, which is also so typical yes for Canadian films (“Leolo”), comes with the German counterpart not at all over. (see 2 original covers canada in the appendix down) instead I would expect rather a kitschy housewife Herzschmerz Tränenzieher of all first cabin.
Why one amends actually at all original book-covers. With music albums this nevertheless also none does! Germany thanks!

The 3 sisters were stamped all together three-dimensional into my original-Canadian book sides. If one opens the book up, one should wear helmet and eye protector, because the figures one jump formally against. If one tries to close it must be occupied with a book Beschwerer from Atomium, otherwise it folds itself from alone. The fate of particularly Frances and Lily interested me so burning that I would have been gladly ready to pursue it still 500 pages further. After approximately 700 pages was the book unfortunately already in the end. Harm. And really very appropriate a reader compares separated here from the marvelously alive figures with separated from a friend. Word!
The present book is for me still better than “where crows flies”. Also 17 years later “case on is your knees” still one of the best books, which I read ever. For me nearly as well as the unequalled “the perfume” by P. Süsskind."

cheers, >>>>> the notwister

+++ WARNING: This is what the free software of the "world-leading translation software company"(!!!) translated my original German review from amazon.de into (sic!!!) - This is what I got, for being too lazy, too translate it myself. I almost collapsed, while reading it. Hilarious, so have fun! ++++
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on 13 February 2012
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.
5 people found this helpful
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on 18 June 2016
This book blew me away. I picked it up in a book exchange and, to be honest, wasn't expecting a great deal as the cover and title weren't overly promising. However, the blurb sounded interesting so I thought I'd give it a go and wow, did it deliver. MacDonald's writing is utterly stunning, poetic, lyrical and perceptive and the characters memorable. This was a big door-stopper of a book but it kept my attention throughout and the shocking ending I did not see coming for a moment. Hugely, highly recommended.
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VINE VOICEon 14 June 2009
I bought this book straight after reading 'The Way The Crow Flies' by the same author. I loved that book so much that I immediately wanted to read something else by her. 'Fall on Your Knees' was in fact written first. Again, most of the book is looking at the world through the eyes of children and how they deal with the most appalling circumstances. But, again all the characters are very well-rounded and one does get to know James and Materia very well. The cleverness of the writing is such that you come to realise that nothing is black and white in this book. There are many shades of grey. James had so many drawbacks and demons as a person, but in amongst the bad, every so often there is another side to him that is portrayed. However, it is fair to say that this is quite a harrowing read, because it does not deal with fairy-tale endings anywhere, but it probably mirrors real life far more closely, because life is portrayed warts and all. One wrong can produce a series of wrongs but with some rights coming through if that makes sense. I will be watching very closely for another book which I hope comes sooner rather than later, because she really is an extremely gifted writer.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 1 September 2007
This was Ms MacDonald's debut novel It is black and bleak and full of secrets. Peopled by flawed yet believable characters, this was one of the most amazing novels I read in 2003.

While the story starts on Cape Breton Island with James Piper (a poor Scots piano tuner) and Materia Mahmoud (the dauhter of a wealthy Lebanese family) and their relationship and elopement, the main story is of their daughters.

The childhood of the Piper sisters - Kathleen, Mercedes, Frances and Lily - is insightfully written and breathes life into the characters. Their lives on Cape Breton Island and then later in New York is an epic tale of love, pain and death, which also contains joy and triumph.

This novel is so rich in themes and in its development of characters it is hard to try to categorise it. So I won't. Instead, I'll recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good well written story but is also willing to explore some of the darker aspects of humanity.

Highly recommended.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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on 1 February 1998
As an MA student, I was interested in doing research about literature in Cape Breton. However, the traditional writers of Cape Breton seemed to leave out a portion of the Island experience that is vital - female characters and their authentic experience. Even though Ann Marie MacDonald is not a native of Cape Breton, she captures in her female characters a reality that transcends our own but also speaks to female internalization of a patriarchal culture. The Piper girls learn a kind of alienation that descends from Scottish and Irish cutlure, strict Christianity, and gender relations that subvert female lives. On the other hand, other characters such as the families of Whitney Pier, find a way to counteract the traditional subjugation of women. This book was so real and poignant in its delivery that my mother, a native Cape Bretoner, could relate easily to its content and situations. This book impressed me so intensely that I am writing my MA thesis on it!
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