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The Falling Woman

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3.6  ·  Rating Details ·  1,101 Ratings  ·  84 Reviews
Elizabeth Waters, an archeologist who abandoned her husband and daughter years ago to pursue her career, can see the shadows of the past. It's a gift she keeps secret from her colleagues and students, one that often leads her to incredible archeological discoveries and the realization that she might be going mad. Then on a dig in the Yucatan, the shadow of a Mayan priestes ...more
Mass Market Paperback, 287 pages
Published September 1987 by Tor Books (first published November 1st 1986)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Miriam
Sep 24, 2014 Miriam rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Narrated in alternating first-person narratives by archaeologist Elizabeth Butler and her adult daughter Diane, Falling Woman explores relationships between individuals, between past and present, between theory abstract and reality, between physical environment and culture.

Elizabeth, a long-divorced expert on Mayan archaeology, is in the process of excavating at Dzibilichaltun when her daughter arrives unannounced. Diane lost her father, her job, and her boyfriend (who turned out to be married)
...more
Nikki
Sep 03, 2016 Nikki rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Falling Woman is a slowish, atmospheric read which got hooks into me and wouldn’t let go. I love the setting — the archaeological dig, the tensions of the excavation team, even the awkwardness between the long estranged mother and daughter… It feels like the kind of site it is: laden with history, meaning, and maybe even ghosts. It’s hard to describe, and to do so would be a disservice if you want to read the book, I think; the whole point is the slow unwinding, the building of tension and u ...more
Tim
Jul 22, 2011 Tim rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Perhaps I'm just optimistic, but I expected more from an award winning book. Then again, maybe I should have known better; one of the comments on the back of the book was that the writing is "generally above average". If that's the best thing you can find to put on a book cover, watch out.

I don't have a lot of bad things to say about the book. But neither do I have a lot of good things to say about it. The characters were strong, but I just didn't quite care about them. The details of an archaeo
...more
Kelly
Apr 11, 2011 Kelly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Archaeologist Elizabeth Butler has a secret: she can see the shades of people from the past, going about their daily activities. This talent has led to plenty of “lucky hunches” in her career but also to questions about her sanity. Normally she just sees the past scenes playing out in front of her but cannot affect them in any way. But while excavating the Maya city of Dzibilchaltún, she encounters a shade who can speak to her: Zuhuy-kak, a priestess of the Maya moon goddess. The Maya believed t ...more
Charles Dee Mitchell
Feb 11, 2015 Charles Dee Mitchell rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
When one of the local workers on a Yucatan archeological site breaks his ankle, the local hospital fixes him up but his mother, the cook for the archeological team, insists that the local curandera be brought in to check him out as well. This old woman also wants to meet Elizabeth Butler, the middle-aged and well-known leader of the team. She identifies Butler as a witch.

Butler is not bothered by this opinion. She can even appreciate it. All her life she has lived with shadows of the past inhabi
...more
Nicholas Whyte
http://nhw.livejournal.com/668913.html[return][return]This is a very good book, one of those rare but welcome moments when the Nebula process picked up on a real gem of a novel that had been overlooked elsewhere, even though it is only barely a genre novel, if anything more of a ghost story than sf or fantasy. The plot concerns an estranged mother and daughter, the former a famous archaeologist working on a Mayan site in the Yucatan, the latter escaping from a set of bad relationships to track d ...more
Heather A
I received a copy from Netgalley.

I had a nice email from a lady in the digital marketing department for Open Road Media offering an invitation to review the title via Netgalley. The novel sounded interesting, and I usually like things with Mayan history. I find the Maya rather fascinating. And the way this novel was described in the email I got it really did sound like something I would enjoy.

However, I just did not like this book much at all, and after 40% I'm just not interested in reading an
...more
Monica
May 14, 2014 Monica rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
Liz is an archaeologist. Due to unusual circumstances, she left her daughter, Diane, and divorced her husband approximately fifteen years prior. Now Diane wants answers regarding the past and her own unusual circumstances. Who knows, maybe tracking her mother down on an archaeological dig may be good for both of them?

A vividly descriptive narrative with mulit-laeveled mysteries winds throughout while characters search for meaning and for who they are individually and together.

Characters are dive
...more
Suzanne
Jul 20, 2010 Suzanne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This Nebula-award-winning book is magical realism rather than science fiction. Unlike others that I've read recently, this author is not shy about accepting the supernatural aspects of the work. There is no attempt to explain it away -- not even with the use of space aliens! At the same time, it is a psychological novel, where the supernatural reflects the natural. The Mayan belief in the cyclical nature of time provides the framework for the plot as well as the theme, yet the real question is w ...more
Koeur
Apr 07, 2014 Koeur rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
http://koeur.wordpress.com/2014/04/07...


Publisher: Open Road
Publishing Date: April 2014
ISBN: 9781480483149
Genre: fantasy
Rating: 1.5/5

Publisher Description: When night falls over the Yucatan, the archaeologists lay down their tools. But while her colleagues relax, Elizabeth Butler searches for shadows. A famous scientist with a reputation for eccentricity, she carries a strange secret. Where others see nothing but dirt and bones and fragments of pottery, Elizabeth sees shades of the men and w
...more
Lauren Collister
Themes of human sacrifice run through this book, which may get uncomfortable for some after a while. The characters are rich and familiar. A bored graduate student. The timely friend. A lecherous young man at a camp who seems to mean well. An old venerable scholar with a drinking problem. And a woman who sees ghosts who is visited by her daughter. I often wondered, throughout this book, whether Diane herself was a ghost. However, she has too many interactions with others, and physical ones that ...more
Kat
Jun 24, 2015 Kat rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Pat Murphy’s The Falling Woman (1986), which won the Nebula Award, reads like literary fiction, with a touch of mysticism. (Perhaps it wouldn’t have been published without the SF label.) The setting is an archaeological dig on Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula. There are two heroines: the chapters alternate between the viewpoints of Elizabeth Butler, an archaeologist and expert on Mayan civilization, and her daughter, Diane, who was raised by her father but after his death shows up unnanounced at Eliza ...more
Yzabel Ginsberg
Quite a strange read. Interesting concepts and description of Mayan culture (I won't comment about whether it's exact or not, as I don't know enough about it as of yet), seen through both the prisms of archaeology and of visions of "shadows of the past". Interesting mother/daughter relationship, too, since Elizabeth and Diane have been estranged from years, and neither does know how to take the right steps to mend the gap.

In general, I liked how human relationships were portrayed in this novel.
...more
Janito Vaqueiro Ferreira Filho
I would dare call this a masterpiece. This is a beautiful book for those that like deeper literature. Classifying it as science-fiction may seem odd, but completely valid because this book develops its own scientific world in archaeology and history. Because I don't know much about archaeology or Mayan history, it's hard for me to judge how well researched the book was, but it seemed completely believable and there just didn't seem to be any moment I had to "suspend belief" in its science (diffe ...more
Robert
Oct 05, 2014 Robert rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
You can also find my review of The Falling Woman on my book blog

I very strongly recommend reading this book without reading the blurb on the back cover (or the introduction), or even the summary on Goodreads. They give more of the direction of the plot away than they should.

Elizabeth is an archaeologist on a dig in Central America. She can glimpse the past, especially at dusk and dawn. One day, one of the people she sees looks at her, and starts to talk to her...

Diane is Elizabeth's daughter, jo
...more
Nancy Butts
Jun 17, 2014 Nancy Butts rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm not quite sure how to classify this book, which I got for free from the iTunes store via a Starbucks promotion. Apparently this won the Nebula Award in 1988, so does that make it science fiction? To me, it seemed more like an episode from the X-Files, but it is a mesmerizing novel. It's told in alternating voice of Elizabeth Waters, a 51-year-old archaeologist who habitually sees ghosts from the past, and is perfectly comfortable with that. She abandoned her husband and daughter years ago af ...more
Daniel
May 23, 2014 Daniel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
This was a strange book.

The first part, and by that I mean the first 60-70%, just seems like a lot of dangling themes. The story of an archaeologist with a 'gift' that seems to cause no real conflict. A history that doesn't really seem to inform. A story of a mother-daughter relationship when they really have had no relationship at all. Frankly it drove me nuts expecting something to happen and certain confrontations to occur and it seemed like it would never happen.

And then...excitement.

(view s
...more
Daniel
May 15, 2014 Daniel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I received an electronic copy of this from the publisher via NetGalley.

Pat Murphy's name and writing were only familiar to me from the nonfiction articles that she coauthors for The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. Always interesting and well written, I was excited for the opportunity to read some of her fiction, this one a Nebula award winner.

Structured as alternating chapters between the points of view of Elizabeth, a respected archeologist leading an expedition studying Mayan ruins, a
...more
Paula
May 11, 2014 Paula rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this novel for NetGalley. This is my honest opinion of the book.

I love a really good ghost story. “The Falling Woman” is that and so much more. I’m not going into finer points of plot and character – other reviewers have adequately discussed those topics. This review is about why I enjoyed the book and am recommending it to other readers.

This expertly and lovingly crafted novel examines the relationship between
archaeologist Elizabeth Butler and her estranged daughter Diane. The novel’s s
...more
Lis Carey
May 09, 2014 Lis Carey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: f-sf, fiction
Elizabeth Butler is an archaeologist working a dig at a Mayan site in the Yucatan. In her mid-fifties now, she has a painful personal history of a failed marriage, a failed suicide attempt, and lost custody of and limited contact with her daughter, Diane.

Diane Butler has lost her father, her boyfriend, and her job over the course of a couple of weeks, and for reasons she doesn't herself entirely understand, seeks out her famous and long-absent mother.

Diane has been having disturbing dreams, in w
...more
Bandit
Oct 13, 2013 Bandit rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked this book up because I find the subjects of archeology and mayan cultures fascinating and also I've read something by Murphy before, which I liked. This book I liked, but not loved and I am trying to figure out why. Murphy is an extremely capable writer, she excels at character development and this book is a shining example of the complicated nuanced flawed human beings (mostly women) of her creation. On the other hand this isn't marketed as a drama, it is very definitively classified a ...more
Fantasy Literature
Archaeologist Elizabeth Butler has a secret: she can see the shades of people from the past, going about their daily activities. This talent has led to plenty of “lucky hunches” in her career but also to questions about her sanity. Normally she just sees the past scenes playing out in front of her but cannot affect them in any way. But while excavating the Maya city of Dzibilchaltún, she encounters a shade who can speak to her: Zuhuy-kak, a priestess of the Maya moon goddess. The Maya believed t ...more
Ben
May 22, 2014 Ben rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Falling Woman was about a lot, although not a lot happens over the course of the novel (or maybe it's just the problem of summarizing a plot that's only loosely rooted in concrete things...). Mother / daughter. Past / present. Science / history. Oh, and madness and, um, intuition? Insight? Something like that. I appreciated the textured descriptions, and the "slowness" of the book didn't make for a slow read at all; I was pulled through to the end. An air of mystery whirled around the whole thin ...more
Sunflower
This book is just weird enough for me to give it 4 stars. The career mother who abandoned her daughter, and who had an unusual ability which gave her an advantage in the world of archaeology, is surprised by the sudden appearance of her daughter whom she barely knows but who has just lost everything, and arrives at the site of the current dig. The relationship between these two, and some previous occupants of the site is the basis of the story, told in alternate chapters by the two present-day ...more
Lia
Nov 08, 2009 Lia rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library, read-in-2009
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Carly
TRIGGER WARNING: The book's themes include self-harm and suicide, with several vivid scenes.

When her life falls apart, Diane Butler succumbs to the impulse to seek out her mother's support. Her desperation coalescing into impulsivity, Diane hops on a plane to Dzibilchaltun, Mexico, to seek out the famous archaeologist mother that she hasn't seen since the age of fifteen. But Diane's mother, Elizabeth, has her own problems. She has long been accustomed to seeing shadows of the past; as she says,
"
...more
Kay
Apr 03, 2016 Kay rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: magical-realism, 2016
This is a combination of a variety of my favorite books: The China Garden (Liz Berry), The Dark Garden (Margaret Buffie), and Waking the Moon (Elizabeth Hand). It also reminds me a bit of Caitlin Kiernan's The Red Tree, in that it's quietly creepy, though the main characters aren't as isolated as Kiernan's was, but the pervasive sense of dread is definitely present.

The ending was a bit of a let-down, but not enough to make me dislike it.
Rachel MacNaught
while i enjoyed a lot of this book, i don't understand how this won a Nebula Award. there was nothing particularly memorable in the story line.., the plot never made much sense, nor did it ever really GO anywhere, and then it sped towards a close so unsatisfactory i felt as though i'd wasted my time.
the climax occurs and suddenly it's the future with no showing of the emotional fallout and progression? lame.
because that was its strength - them protagonists, you guys. i've already forgotten thei
...more
Linda Shields
Jan 03, 2013 Linda Shields rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A dark and compelling novel where the past and present are twisted together so tightly that the characters, and the reader, are never sure of what's real, remembered or doomed to occur. I've re-read this novel so many times I feel like I've time travelled through it myself. Definitely not recommended for anyone coping with major depression.
Spike Anderson
Oct 25, 2010 Spike Anderson rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: scififant
this book sucked. I can't believe it won awards. BORING...and nothing happens, the character development is bullshit. this book sucked
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