On page six of Fallen, Lia Mills writes: The latch clicked like a scold's tongue, a neat phrasing that made me realise I would enjoy reading this book. And I did - the language is vivid and lively.

Fallen is the One City One Book choice for Dublin this year, but it's also the choice for Belfast. So it is also denominated as the Two Cities One Book choice, and before its current incarnation as a portable paperpack, it first appeared as the Easter 1916 commemorations were about to begin.

Thus the story is set around the momentous events that occurred on this island a century ago. Katie Crilly is bright and unsettled, frustrated by the expectations from young middle class women like her, which is to marry well, whether they want to or not. When, in August 1915, her beloved twin Liam dies fighting in the First World War, she is bereft.

A few short months later, during Easter 1916, there is bloody conflict in her native city. Katie questions the nature of war as fought on foreign fields and on the streets of Dublin. At the home of a friend she meets Hubie Wilson, who was an army pal of her brother Liam. 

Though both wounded by their experiences, Katie and Hubie navigate their way towards making a new life, while trying to cope with their grief. Fallen is not plot heavy, despite the dramatic backdrop of the First World War and the Easter Rising. It hinges on the character of Katie Crilly and had she not been well drawn by Lia Mills, I might have struggled with this book. However, she is an engaging character and I liked how she was written, although the tale meanders at times, a bit like the streets Katie is so fond of tramping.

Fallen is lyrical and descriptive both about Katie and about her native Dublin. Big dreams that come to nothing are something of a speciality in Dublin. It aspires to be a city, but has the habits of a village. This 288-page tale has heart.

Avril Hoare