Before The Fall  by Juliet  West
(Mantle/Macmillan, 2014)

Before The Fall

by Juliet West

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.

London Docklands, 1916. Prowling Zeppelins rule the skies, shadowy streets stand deserted and a thick darkness engulfs the city. A young woman crosses the Thames, she can’t look down and she can’t stop. Her secrets are about to break her…

With her husband fighting in France, 24-year-old Hannah Loxwood struggles to be everything the war asks her to be. She cares for her children, supports her parents, she pays her way. But the fighting drags on and Hannah frantically grapples with the overwhelming burden of “duty.” She sacrifices everything for a husband who may never come home until she’s faced with the most dangerous of temptations.

Based on a tragic true story, Before The Fall hurls you into war-torn London and offers an intimate glimpse of a family’s struggles. It explores the devastating effect of the war on those left behind and the agonising decisions that have to be made. But above all this is a love story. As relevant now as it was then and with a twist that will leave you breathless.


Before the Fall is as poignant as it is powerful. With tremendous sensitivity and insight, Juliet West explores the consequences of private lives engulfed by the public catastrophe of war. At the same time, nothing diminishes the force of her storytelling. Her characters - including London's East End itself - are unforgettable. Her prose is compelling.”
- Alison MacLeod, Author of Unexploded.
I can't tell you how much I enjoyed Before The Fall. Juliet West has created some wonderfully believable characters and her descriptions of London are breath-taking! I have not read a book that brings the sense of time and place to life as well as this one does. I was living and breathing the war years in London. But it's the love story at the centre of the book that will stay with me . . . This is a wonderful book, intelligent, wise, and full of passion and courage. I absolutely loved it and I can't praise it highly enough. I would recommend Before The Fall to anyone who is looking for a superb read, a page-turning drama that's exactly of its time, and a story and characters that will stay in the mind long after the book is finished. ”
- Louise Douglas, Bestselling author of The Secrets Between Us
Before the Fall is a stunning debut - a breathtaking portrayal of life and love in all its complexity. Juliet West's powerful yet subtle prose is utterly riveting. This is a story which haunted me long after I had read the final, heartbreaking pages. ”
- Suzannah Dunn
Before the Fall is an astonishing literary achievement. Set during World War I, Juliet West’s powerful and crisp prose creates an atmosphere of impending doom and lays bare the hardships of life in London’s East End. West deftly captures the voices of the working poor who are caught in webs of duty to country, family, friends, and work. The author understands the complexities of war at the home front, and as bombs fall on London, she pulls us deeper and deeper into this mesmerizing story of desire, love, loss, and courage. ”
- Ann Weisgarber, Orange Prize longlisted author of The Personal History of Rachel Dupree