Posted by: Lisa Hill | May 15, 2014

After the Fall (2009), by Kylie Ladd

Cover of After the FallI’m not a romantic, but I do like to hear the stories of how couples met.  I always ask this question when I am introduced to someone recently widowed: it breaks that awkward silence, and I have never met a woman in this situation who hasn’t been pleased to ‘have permission’ to talk about her loved one.  ‘Oh, I’m so sorry to hear that,’ I say,’ what was his name? Tell me about him … how did you meet?’

Sometimes it’s a story of love at first sight, sometimes there are stumbles and misunderstandings, sometimes there is outright dislike which has to be overcome.  The venues can be romantic or prosaic, and most women remember vividly what they were wearing and why they chose that outfit.  Of course there may be rose-coloured glasses at work, but you know and understand this if you’ve ever had this conversation with your own loved one. How can it be that two people remember the same event so differently?!

Author Kylie Ladd has used this phenomenon to introduce her characters in After the Fall.  Two couples, Kate and Cary, Cressida and Luke, are in crisis because Luke has had an affair with Kate.  Each character takes it in turn to narrate the story, beginning with their recollection of how they met. The tone of each one is confiding, intimate, and self-justificatory.  It is as if they are talking to a marriage guidance counsellor in a solo session, free to tell the truth but not wanting to invite criticism, (not even the unspoken kind).  So while the narrative conveys ‘truths’ that most couples wouldn’t risk, there is also always a sense of something held back.  Sometimes this is just prudence at work, and sometimes it’s a lack of self-knowledge.

Kate can’t help but give the romantic version. She swears she’s a realist, but I’ve seen how she pouts when other women get sent flowers; how her eyes cloud over at diamond commercials on the TV.  I’m not big on flowers, but she got her jewellery and a husband, and for most women, that would have been enough.  Marriage isn’t just about romance, is it?  It’s about family and companionship and teamwork, not just bouquets and fireworks.  The advertising industry has a lot to answer for.

Still, that November night when we met did have its share of romance.  Kissing Kate under a sky full of catherine-wheels is a memory I’ll take to the grave, no matter whom I’m buried beside.  But she didn’t mention that … (p. 18)

This reflection come from a man who thought he knew his wife, but turned out to be wrong…

After the Fall tells the story of two rather introverted people who happen to be married to extroverts who embark on a wild, passionate affair.  Everything falls apart, and in the fallout, one couple separates permanently and the other tries to reconcile.  As the story emerges we find that the betrayed are intense personalities, and remarkably unobservant. The adulterers are shallow, selfish and self-obsessed.  One in particular is so narcissistic that notwithstanding the enthusiastic descriptions of his good looks, one wonders what anyone might see in him.

Adultery, of course, is serious enough for those involved, but the issue is not in the same league as novels I’ve more recently read.   Personal Effects by Carmel McDonald Grahame dealt with the globalisation of the workforce and The Last Warner Woman by Kei Miller explored some difficult issues concerning the way societies treat their immigrants.  I didn’t expect to have much to think about after reading After the Fall – and so it proved to be.   At the end of the day this is just a novel about the damage done by adultery, which has been the subject of countless books and movies because, after all,  infidelity is nothing new.  At 374 pages, After the Fall was a bit long for itself, and  I didn’t find it particularly insightful.  It didn’t bother me to put the book aside for a day or two to do some work reading (some children’s novels that have been shortlisted for the CBCA Book of the Year).

But I see from some enthusiastic reviews at GoodReads that other people found the novel intensely moving, thoughtful, and perceptive.  They rated the book five stars.  It’s gone into numerous reprints so clearly it has appealed to many readers, and Ladd has written a successful subsequent novel on a similar theme of passionate love breaking up existing relationships, so presumably there’s a market for novels exploring emotional issues and not much else.

But that’s not quite enough for me.

PS I really disliked the anorexic image on the front cover and am pleased to see that it’s been ditched in subsequent editions.  Why, in a female dominated publishing industry, book covers are normalising an unhealthy body image, I do not know…

Author: Kylie Ladd
Title: After the Fall
Publisher: Allen and Unwin, 2009
ISBN: 9781741756821
Source: Kingston Library


Fishpond: After the Fall


  1. A fine review, Lisa. This sounds like an intriguing novel; surely like you hinted, the theme of adultery is not new. However,it remains one that every married person or otherwise would want to know why a partner would be unfaithful. Just what at all is the missing link?


    • Hi Celestine, I suppose people think they will feel better if they know why, but I suspect it doesn’t help at all. After all, there is only one reason, and that’s that adulterer doesn’t love the betrayed partner enough to keep their vows and be faithful.


  2. Interesting. Arthur Miller wrote a play called ‘After the Fall’ which was based on his marriage to Marilyn Monroe.
    Introverts married to extroverts with adultery thrown in sounds like an interesting subject but maybe not worth 374 pages.


    • Hi Tony, I didn’t know that about Arthur Miller, I’ve only ever seen All My Sons and Death of a Salesman. Is it a bitter and twisted account of the marriage, or melancholy?


  3. I also noticed the cover and the unhealthy-looking woman. Wonder why they chose that one? Haven’t read this and it’s not something to my reading taste, but always interesting to get your take on it Lisa. I like that you are honest.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I was all fired up about the cover image so I was pleased to read your last comment. Another good review.


  5. So glad we are of like minds, Jenny and Karenlee!


  6. Lovely review, Lisa. ‘After the Fall’ sounds like an interesting read, and I like the concept of having different narrators.


    • Hi Lucy, the four narrators does mean that the reader seems to get the full picture, but the reader still has to fill in some gaps because they’re not all being honest with themselves.


  7. […] as I said when reviewing After the Fall I want something to think about from the books I read.   Thicker than Water delivers much more […]


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