Rebecca's Reviews > All Fall Down

All Fall Down by Sally Nicholls
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's review
Jun 18, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: historical-fiction, 2012-ya-hist-fic-challenge
Read in April, 2012

Fourteen-year-old Isabel lives in a small village in England that has recently suffered from bad weather and food shortages. When the villagers hear news of a strange new disease, they are concerned by how fast it is spreading through the country. This plague strikes everyone equally, whether they are young or old, weak or strong. Nearly half the population of England dies. Many people believe the end of the world has come. Those that survive are left struggling to rebuild their homes and lives. If you read a lot of dystopian novels set in a bleak possible future, this plot probably sounds somewhat familiar. But All Fall Down is set in 1349, when a devastating pandemic of bubonic plague killed between one-third and one-half of Europe's population, changing that society forever.

When the story opens, Isabel is content with her life. She loves her father, stepmother, and five siblings. It is already planned that when she is older, she will marry Robin, a boy she grew up with in the village, who is one of her best friends. Like most Medieval peasants, she's never travelled away from her village. Her family is not truly free, as they must work for the local lord, Sir Edmund. But Isabel knows no other life, and doesn't want anything to change. This made her character seem very realistic, since that's likely how a real girl back then would have thought. She doesn't want to rise above her station in life. She's just an ordinary person with an ordinary life that is completely turned upside down by tragedy.

As the story progresses, Isabel can do nothing but watch as many of her family and friends are killed by the plague. She and some of those she cares about survive, entirely by chance, but are left to figure out how to go on living in a very changed world. The ending was realistic, but honestly (and this is just a personal preference) I wish it had been slightly happier. It was hopeful and not entirely grim, but it didn't end the way I really hoped it would, and I can't say more than that without it being a huge spoiler. But that doesn't reflect on the quality of the writing at all, and I think that this is a story that will appeal to readers who don't normally read historical fiction, since it reads a lot like a dystopian novel. But instead of speculating about possible future disasters and how humanity might react and find a way to survive, the author tells the story of a real disaster which decimated the population of countless countries and caused enormous and permanent social changes.
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Reading Progress

04/07 page 1
04/17 page 134
49.0% "This is getting really sad... although that's to be expected given what it's about."
04/22 marked as: read
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Comments (showing 1-7 of 7) (7 new)

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message 1: by Cindy (new) - added it

Cindy What is the premise exactly for this book. Sounds interesting from what I can gather from reviews.

Rebecca It's about a 14 year old girl living during the Black Death in England, in the year 1349.

Rebecca I updated the Goodreads page with the description from the back of the book.

message 4: by Cindy (new) - added it

Cindy Sounds interesting. What a horrible time period of illness and death. Thanks for the update. Are you enjoying it?

message 5: by Rebecca (last edited Apr 11, 2012 11:46AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Rebecca So far I am, but I haven't gotten to the part yet where people start dying. I have a bad cold so I've been reading slowly this week.

message 6: by Cindy (new) - added it

Cindy Hope you get feeling better, hate being sick:( I just ordered it, it sounds interesting curious how they dealt with it all. Thanks:D

message 7: by Cindy (new) - added it

Cindy Title is fitting, crazy to think a nursery song is about this, Yikes!

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