Cover image for The fall of light
The fall of light
Williams, Niall, 1958-
Personal Author:
First U.S. edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Warner Books, 2002.

Physical Description:
305 pages ; 24 cm
Geographic Term:
Format :


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Beginning in Ireland in the early years of the 19th century, the four Foley brothers flee across the country with their father and the large telescope he has stolen. Soon forced apart by the violence of the Irish wilderness, the potato famine, and the promise of America, the brothers find themselves scattered across the world. Their separate adventures unfold in passionate and vivid scenes with gypsies, horse races, sea voyages, and beautiful women. An epic narrative on the meaning of love and home and family, The Fall of Light is a dazzling novel by one of the most promising novelists writing today.

Author Notes

Author and playwright Niall Williams was born in Dublin in 1958. He received a Master's degree in Modern American Literature from University College Dublin, where he also studied English and French literature. In 1980, he moved to New York and worked as a copywriter for Avon Books. In 1985, he moved back to Ireland to become a full-time writer. His first four books were co-written with his wife and deal with their life together in Kiltumper, Ireland. On his own, he has written three plays and five novels. His first novel, Four Letters of Love, became an international bestseller.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

The author of the acclaimed debut novel Four Letters of Love (1997), Williams once again features a father undone by grandiose dreams. Sick to death of the menial chores required and the disrespect he suffers as a gardener on a vast estate in Ireland, working for an absentee landlord, Francis Foley steals a splendid telescope from the owner's large library. His wife, tired of constantly being on the move and of her husband's refusal to put his family before his pride, has taken off. In order to escape the law, Francis and his four sons sneak away in the middle of the night. In attempting to cross a turbulent river, the sons become separated from their father and eventually from each other. Now the father wants nothing more than what he once had: the closeness and comfort of his family. Williams expertly covers a lot of territory--the stark tragedy of the potato famine, the ability to speak to horses, the pull of the stars--giving his resonant, fable-like story the grand sweep of an epic. --Joanne Wilkinson

Publisher's Weekly Review

The travails of the Foley family in the times before and during the Irish potato famine are the subject of Williams's overwrought, unashamedly romantic epic (after Four Letters of Love). Francis Foley inherited his rebel blood from a father who was hung for treason by the English, but his marauding spirit is tamed somewhat when he marries Emer O'Suilleabhain, the daughter of a village schoolteacher. A gardener on the great estate of a mostly absentee grandee, Francis eventually takes to breaking into the big house and looking at the sky through his lordship's telescope, to Emer's dismay; their quarrels escalate into violence and she leaves him. Francis, desperate to find her, packs up his four sons, steals the telescope, sets fire to the estate and runs off. So begins a series of disasters that sees the Foley boys Tomas, Teige and the twins, Finbar and Finan separated and reunited several times as their destinies carry them to Hungary, America and Africa. Tomas, the oldest, falls in love with a beautiful prostitute named Blath, for whom he kills a man. Teige, the youngest, becomes a locally famous horse tamer and runs off with Elizabeth, the daughter of the squire he works for, and Finbar winds up the leader of a gypsy band. Francis himself is nearly drowned, and is rescued by monks; he searches for his sons and is finally reunited with Emer, now a blind woman. Williams veers from lyricism to blarney in swooping, misty paragraphs sure to please his readership. Major ad/promo; 5-city author tour. (Mar. 13) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Set in 19th-century Ireland, this sweeping tale by Williams (Four Letters of Love) follows the fate of a father and his four sons. Francis Foley marries Emer and then finds work as a gardener on a large estate. One night, he becomes fed up with his absentee landowner-employer for not appreciating his artistry, so he destroys his cottage, sets fire to the manor, and steals his employer's telescope. So begin the myriad adventures of Francis and his sons, who flee the estate without Emer. Not long after, they cross a river, and Francis is swept away. Thinking their father dead, the boys Tomas, Teige, Finbar, and Finan push on. Tomas becomes involved with a woman named Blath who will lead him down a dark path that involves a brush with a hellish Irish prison; Teige is a wonder with animals, especially horses, a skill that will lead him to Elizabeth, the love of his life as well as his downfall; Finbar meets up with a band of Gypsies at some point and through a series of events becomes their leader; and Finan wonders off to become a missionary in Africa, lost to his family forever. Paths do cross as the book continues, and some of the Foleys even head off to America to make a new life. Filled with magical realism, this book is an allegory of Ireland and its people. It is overstuffed with events and not always convincing, but readers who enjoy epic tales with several story lines will find it satisfying. Recommended for most public libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 11/15/01.] Robin Nesbitt, Columbus Metropolitan Lib., OH (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.