I am delighted to be the final blogger on this fantastic Blog Tour for How Far We Fall, the latest novel from author of Daughter – Jane Shemilt. Many thanks to Jenny Platt at Michael Joseph for inviting me to join the tour and to the publisher for providing an advance copy for review. I’m an English teacher ‘by day’ and once I knew that this was a reimagining of Macbeth, I couldn’t wait to read it…
The perfect couple
Meeting Albie gave Beth a fresh start – a chance to leave her past behind. Now she has her new husband; an ambitious, talented young neurosurgeon.
The perfect marriage
Their marriage gives Beth the safe haven she’s always wanted – with just one catch. Albie has no idea of the secrets she’s keeping. He doesn’t know that years ago, Beth had an affair with Ted, the boss helping Albie’s star ascend. Nor that the affair’s devastating ending will have consequences for their own future.
The perfect storm
So when Ted’s generous patronage begins to sour, Beth senses everything she’s built could crumble. And she sees an opportunity. To satisfy Albie’s ambitions, and her own obsessive desire for revenge . . .
She’ll keep her marriage and her secret safe.
But how far will the fall take them?
“By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes”
Macbeth, or The Scottish Play, is my very favourite of all Shakespeare’s creations and so I was totally intrigued to see how Jane Shemilt would transform Dunsinane and bring these bloody deeds into the present day.
I think it’s a bold move to take such a well loved tale and let loose your imagination on it, but rest assured, I loved the way that I could inhabit both storylines at the same time – like a Magic Eye picture so that I could enjoy the new story whilst seeing all the way that it intersected with the original
The novel replaces the Macbeths with Beth, Albie and Ted. Beth is a theatre nurse who used to work with neurosurgeon Ted. The two of them had an affair which ended badly. Ted Is a great character, like many top doctors, he has somewhat of a god complex and is fascinating to second guess. Our third member of the “cast” is Albie. Albie is Being groomed as Ted’s successor and this is true in more ways than one as he also falls, like his predecessor, in love with Beth. Are you following so far? Good.
Just like the original, Jane Shemilt weaves a tale full of darkest revenge, soaring ambition and searing betrayal. Ted succeeds in making us detest his Machiavellian manoeuvres, but every plot has to have a “baddie” and Ted might not be the only one to watch in this gripping read…If you haven’t seen the Modern day Macbeth with James McAvoy as the chef, then you definitely should. I enjoyed comparing the characters in my head and looking for the parallels.
As things develop in this ménage a trois, your loyalties and certainties might very well shift, just as they do in Macbeth and you might also think about what you yourself might be prepared to do in the name of ambition. This is well depicted in the novel and hard to discuss without spoilers – all I can say is you’ll be engrossed and if you’re anything like me, you won’t be able to put it down unless your husband says something like “Is this a gin I see before thee?” And pours you a long cool drink so you can continue to read it in the sunshine.
Jane Shemilt’s “Daughter” was a great read that I’ve tweeted about previously- but I loved How Far We Fall far more. I really got absorbed in their world whilst loving the Scottish connections and the parallels with Shakespeare’s best tragedy. It’s interesting to read it with that mindset: that a tragedy has to contain a fall from grace through a vulnerability and I feel that this idea is woven into the plot seamlessly. If we were pushed hard enough, How Far would we be prepared to go to protect our own position. This would be a good book group read as it would definitely provoke lots of discussion.
I was lucky enough to be reading this in a gorgeous converted Shepherds hut in the Cotswolds where I could give it my undivided attention and I think that this added to my enjoyment. In a Shakespeare play, you feel this rising action as you move inevitably to the denouement and this is how I got to experience How Far We Fall, by reading it from cover to cover in one day. This would make a fabulous holiday read as long as you’re not shy about reading descriptions of operations and you’ll love the way that the characters come to life before your eyes and seem so real as you immerse yourself in their world. This is a well crafted and clever novel that takes a classic and adds an original touch. I loved the way that it twisted itself around you and held you in its grip until you found out its conclusion. I’m left wondering what’s next for Jane Shemilt? I’d love to see her take on another favourite, Othello, but I’ll just have to be patient and keep my fingers crossed. Maybe I can get three witches to predict it?
I Have added a photo of my gorgeous reading retreat below. I Can absolutely recommend it for a cool and relaxing reading afternoon. A good soak in the hot tub afterwards with a pink gin was the perfect finale after this fab summer read. You should definitely buy yourself a copy to enjoy this summer.
Writer On The Shelf
While working as a GP, Jane Shemilt completed a postgraduate diploma in Creative Writing at Bristol University and went on to study for the MA in Creative Writing at Bath Spa, gaining both with distinction. Her first novel, Daughter, was selected for the Richard & Judy Book Club, shortlisted for the Edgar Award and the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize, and went on to become the bestselling debut novel of 2014.
She and her husband, a professor of neurosurgery, have five children and live in Bristol.