A powerful love.
An impossible choice.
I think the war is everywhere: in the rain, in the river, in the grey air that we breathe. It is a current that runs through all of us. You can't escape the current; either you swim with it, or you go under.
1916. Across the channel, the Great War rages; in London's East End, with her husband away fighting, Hannah Loxwood struggles to hold everything together. But when Hannah takes a job in a café, she discovers a glimpse of freedom away from her needy young children, her spiteful sister and desperately ill father.
While the conflict drags on, Hannah battles with the overwhelming burden of 'duty'. She has sacrificed so much for a husband who left her behind, a husband who may never come home. Then, when she meets Daniel - thoughtful, intelligent, quietly captivating - Hannah finds herself faced with the most dangerous of temptations . .As the war grips tighter and bombs fall down upon the streets, the stakes for the couple grow ever higher. Soon Hannah and Daniel will realise just how precarious their happiness is, as their destiny rushes towards them . . .
Beautifully wrought, utterly compelling and with a twist that will leave you breathless, Before The Fall, inspired by a true story, hurls you into a London torn apart by the First World War and paints a vivid and haunting portrait of one woman's struggle.
Before The Fall by Juliet West is published by Mantle (Pan Macmillan) on 22 May 2014 and is the author's debut novel.
Hannah Loxwood always dreamt that she would get out of the East End. She practised her handwriting, she was determined to get a good job and make something of her life. Like many girls before her, she instead found herself replaying her mother's life. Pregnant; a quick wedding and within a couple of years a mother of two young children. Her dreams shattered.
Daniel is not like the other young men in the neighbourhood. Having had a glimpse into the life of the gentry and introduced to the literary greats such as Thomas Hardy, he is a dreamer and a thinker. His young wife died, his children are away living with their Aunt, he spends his days working on the shipyards and his evenings reading and imagining what could have been.
When Hannah's husband George joins up, she is forced to move back home, to live alongside her bitter sister, her lascivious brother-in-law and her parents. Her father is sick, sometimes he doesn't recognise Hannah, he thinks she is her late Aunt Beatrice who took her own life by jumping from a bridge.
Hannah and Daniel's paths cross when they meet in the cafe where Hannah takes a job. That meeting is the beginning of a love story that will soften the hardest of hearts, a love story that becomes more of a battle for these two people who know that they have found their true soul mate.
Based on a true story, Before The Fall is a beautifully created story of the lives of those left behind whilst the battles rage in Europe. Juliet West paints a brutally honest, startling landscape of war-torn London and its inhabitants. Her female characters are vividly drawn and lead the story so well; the central male characters are a mixed bunch of sick, elderly and intense men who ably play a supporting role.
Hannah and Daniel's relationship evolves slowly and their fear of reprisal is paramount throughout. To betray a serving soldier during this most vicious of wars is looked upon as a betrayal of the whole country, the men serving abroad are heroes and those left behind are expected to respect that at all costs. But life doesn't work like that, people still fall in love no matter how hard they try not to and Hannah and Daniel's love is pure and true and they cannot ignore it.
Juliet West's writing is as powerful as it is poetic, she creates an almost claustrophobic atmosphere with words. The complexities of forbidden love, the effects of war on the community, the sense of duty and utter hopelessness is portrayed skilfully and most beautifully.
Before The Fall is a love story to break hearts; passionate and evocative. I adored it.
Juliet West worked as a journalist before taking an MA in Creative Writing at Chichester University, where she won the Kate Betts' Memorial Prize.
Before The Fall, her debut novel, was shortlisted for the Myriad Editions novel writing competition in 2012.
Juliet also writes short stories and poetry, and won the H E Bates short story prize in 2009.
She lives in West Sussex with her husband and three children.
To find out more, visit her website: www.julietwest.com