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In the Fall

3.82 of 5 stars 3.82  ·  rating details  ·  1,198 ratings  ·  188 reviews
A rich and masterful novel about love and the question of race in post-Civil War America; Spanning the post-Civil War era to the edge of the Great Depression in the Fall is an extraordinary epic of three generations of an American family, the dark secrets that blister at its core, and the transcendent bonds between men and women that fuel their lives over the course of six...more
Paperback, 565 pages
Published 2001 by Picador (first published January 1st 2000)
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Best American Historical Fiction
34th out of 133 books — 144 voters
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Literary Westerns
42nd out of 98 books — 149 voters

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Community Reviews

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Kim Marshall
Dec 04, 2013 Kim Marshall rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who love to be touched in places in their souls that they forgot existed.
Having borrowed this book from my daughter who had gotten it in a second hand book store and not read and having never myself herd of the author I had no preconceived notion of what these pages had in store for me. However, once I got going I could not put this book down. I say “once I got going” because to be honest I found Lent’s style a bit hard to get use to. And his style is also a bit hard to describe. It is not that he is very descriptive or that the subject matter is historical fiction o...more
Good read.....not. I very rarely (I don't think ever) give one star for a book. I love to read and can usually find something to like about almost any book I read. This was my exception. If you like slogging through heavy prose and 70 word sentences then this is definitely the book for you. I, however, had a hard time finishing it. I did finish though, because part of me kept wanting so badly for it to get better. This time period is one of my favorites and I was really looking foward to explori...more
This was Jeffrey Lent's 1st novel and most of the action takes place in new England. It is the story of a family's (interracial) life from the end of the Civil War through prohibition. This was the first novel I have read where the issue of "passing" in a white world was a primary theme. The effect of this on a family is devastating and isolating at times. It becomes a "secret". Basically, Norman, the main character walks home to Vermont after the Civil War with the woman who he loves who also h...more
This was almost a 5 star book for me. I loved the language, the writing the characters. I was transfixed by the first characters introduced and the family saga that developed from the battle fields of the civil war to the bootlegging in the New England states.
There were moments in the writing that you stopped and reread the words and wanted to share their beauty with someone but knowing that only you in that moment could experience the full meaning... just beautiful.
What beautiful writing, truly breathtaking. the story was compelling,at times heart wrenching. loved norman and leah,prudence and abigail,and Foster!! So many beautiful lines and passages ....just one "He was not simple in love but ferocious with it." Thank you Jeffery Lent,want to read more of your stories.
Writing was good, characters were very believable, but the thing that really irked me about this book was the constant something-big-is-around-the-corner baiting. And in the end, hundreds of pages later, it wasn't that big, or that surprising.
CML - Hilliard Branch Book Group selection (October 2001)

A work of literary writing genius. An incredible story that stretches across generations written in a language of melodic prose.

Book description from "In the twilight of the Civil War, Leah, an escaped slave, discovers Norman Pelham, a wounded soldier who lies dying in a battlefield outside Richmond. After she nurses him back to health, Norman brings her to his family farm in Vermont as his wife, and they begin a family. Now th...more
Ron Charles
There's something suspicious about the power of Jeffrey Lent's "In the Fall." Is this really the work of a first-time novelist, or is it some late discovery of a book by William Faulkner?

"In the Fall" moves through three generations of the Pelham family with stunning success. The novel starts in gloaming silence, deep in the Vermont woods, and builds like a thunderstorm coming over the horizon. By the end, 60 years and more than 500 pages later, the lightning scalps your soul.

When young Norman d...more
Lush and lovely, In The Fall is an immersive, and deeply flawed take on Big American Themes of family, race, and identity. Lent's prose is long-winded and beautiful but will be pure agony for readers in search of brevity. The guy does his own thing syntax-wise, mixing three-word sentences with ones that go on for half a page, ignoring conventional grammar rules and relying a tad too much on philosophical similes. Still, the plot moves along briskly enough. The first third of the novel is incredi...more
I don't know what to say about this one. I could not take my nose out of it, wanting to get to the mystery at the end. A multi-generational saga set between the War of Southern Aggression and Prohibition.

A couple of quotes to give you and idea:

"The problem, Jamie had long felt, was not the people weren't capable of telling the truth; it was that they weren't able to understand what they were hearing. The truth was no a line from here to there, and not ever-widening circles like the rings on a sa...more
This debut novel is at times luminous, but frankly more often dark and brooding. Ir follows three generations of a troubled family, beginning with young Civil War soldier Norman Pelham, who brings home to Vermont and marries Leah, the runaway slave who found him severely wounded and saved his life. The theme of racial tension plays a huge part in the story. Also looming large are themes of loss, recovery and redemption, as Jamie, the youngest offspring of this couple rejects his farm upbringing...more
In many ways, this book reminds me of Anna Karenina. There are historical aspects, love interests, views on class and race and general thoughts on life and how different people live it. There is no easy and quick way to sum up a book like this. It is too multi-faceted.

The book is written in three parts. It starts in the Civil War. A young man from Vermont is wounded, found by a runaway slave and falls in love. Then, we move on with one of his son's who is determined to get away from the Vermont...more
An ambitious novel on my reading list that was also recommended by Darlene & Ginalie. It's the story of 3 generations of a family beginning with a Vermont farmer/Civil War soldier who marries a runaway slave. It's a powerful story, though the account of the second-generation son who tries to leave his past behind by successfully "passing" in white society probably goes on too long. But the Graham-Greene-type ending that brings the book's themes together so powerfully almost makes up for it....more
Amanda Ferrell
At times this was really enjoyable, with beautiful prose that seemed to advance the action and add to it. Other times, it felt like Jeffery Lent was very much in love with what he had to say and how to say it, whether or not is really needed to be said.
The descriptive phrases in this book draw you in. In some authors this wordiness is annoying. In this book it seems fitting and right.

The pace of the book keeps you turning the pages to see what happens next.

Great character development-lots of them you don't like as a person but find intriguing through their thoughts and actions.
Had this book given to me by someone who was cleaning house prior to moving, otherwise I would probably never have known about it. What a delight! An epic story covering 3 generations. Writing style reminiscent of Faulkner and McCarthy. Very enjoyable. I'll seek more from this author.
A generational saga with deep, beautiful writing and rich, developed characters. Definitely not a book you can rush through. The negatives? There were parts of the book that droned on and were hard to get through. And the ending was very abrupt and disappointing.
Carolyn S
For a first book, Jeffrey pored all his thoughts into this book, his believes of the civil war, his race thoughts, and inter breeding thoughts together in this book. He does all this in 511 pages, by breaking the book into three generations and focusing on each person or family and then does a great job filling in the gaps in the last chapter. I would have given this book a 3 1/2, since it is a bit too wordy for me, but would recommend this book to the book reader that has lots of time and would...more
Set in the aftermath of the US Civil War - a beautiful, engrossing novel about the psychological complexities of racism = both internal and external. A great family saga.
Very interesting and different book. Difficult to read, at times. I would like to see what others say about the book.
Hmm, tough to sum this one up. I picked it up as a paper back to haul around in my purse, read in the bath tub and generally otherwise abuse, because it had a lovely cover and sounded interesting, Civil War era, perhaps similar, only longer, to Cold .... uhm, why can't I remember that title (they made a movie from it, was one of the best from a book movies I've seen but dang, I just can't summon it at the moment, doubtless it'll come to me in the middle of the night. Mountain? I think that's it)...more
Quite often, I select books just because I think the cover is pretty. This one shows an old house on a hill surrounded by trees, all covered in snow.

The story begins, "The boy's grandfather came down off the hill..." and it isn't until about well over 300 pages later that we learn who the boy is. This novel spans three generations, from the civil war era to prohibition. Within these generations, we meet Leah (a runaway slave married to a white soldier), who is haunted by her past; her son, Jamie...more
Mary Ann
I love the way Jeffrey Lent writes. His command of language is so interesting and different that I find myself stopping every now and then to contemplate the sentence structure because it is so unique in today's world. For instance, in one scene where Norman has gone to fetch a Doctor for his wife who is about to give birth, there is a delay in which the Doctor realizes he is not needed. The scene is tense and both men realize that a drink is in order. The way Jeffrey Lent describes the thoughts...more
I was sitting in a hotel room in Littleton NH when I got to page 214 and the character got off the train in Littleton, NH! One-third of the book takes place in that part of NH--Littleton Diner, Thayer Hotel, Easton, works & lives in Bethlehem, NH, drives backroads around Franconia and Whitefield, etc...

The book is really good, altho so descriptive that sometimes I wanted to read ahead, but rarely did, as I found that in some narrative paragraph was a jewel that kept the continuity of the boo...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Paula Dembeck
Norman Pelham, a union soldier in the Civil War is wounded and near death. He is found by Leah, a black slave girl running from her hellish life in the south, where after an attempted rape she tries to kill her white owner’s son. Leah nurses Norman back to health and they return to his home in the North as a married couple. They have three children, two daughters Abby and Prudence, and a son Jamie. Jamie leaves home as a teenager, marries and has two children, Foster and Clare. Clare and her mot...more
There was a lot of good and a fair amount of bad in this book. Lent's concept of a multi-generational, interracial family story was interesting. The characters he created were largely believable and the time in which they lived was researched well enough to make the story feel authentic. However, the graphic and gratuitous sex depicted in the novel detracted from the central storyline. The conclusion also felt out of balance with the rest of the book. While I'm sure all readers were itching to k...more
It was alright I like how they make sure to consistently show the time period they are in with references to the Civil War and the warning that the Great Depression is on the horizons. Lent takes you through generations families and I like that. Seeing how they are similar to their children or grandparents, ect and how each family is influenced by history.
Oh how I love this book! I simply can't wait to get back to it each day. It will not appeal to everyone but I love the story, the characters and the writing is incredible to me. Will follow up this review when finished. This author also wrote Lost Nation one of my favorites.
August 3, 2013
I am 3/4 through this book and I don't want it to end. This authors sentences are so exceptional, descriptions are so vivid, I can visualize these people and care about them!
August 5 2013.
Sad to report I am fi...more
I wanted to love this book. It is an epic story, told across three generations of Americans, beginning with the unlikely love story of a Civil War soldier, Norman, and a runaway slave, Leah. Their story is remarkable, uplifting, and totally believable, and its end brought me to tears. Throughout, the writing is lyrical, with breathtaking metaphors and language. But something happens as the book moves into the second generation of the family. Lent spends at least 100 pages detailing the uninspiri...more
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