From the poverty of post-war England and Ireland to the glitz and glamour of Hollywood's golden age, a beautiful, sweeping family drama that illustrates that the bonds between a mother and daughter can never be broken. An unwanted child: San Francisco, 1958. On a dark December night, a baby girl is left at the Sisters of Charity Orphanage on Telegraph Hill. A mysterious suicide: One year later, movie star Frances Fitzgerald takes her own life. Her husband, wealthy businessman Maximilian Stanhope, is rumoured to know more about her death than he's letting on, but nothing is ever proved. A terrible secret: What is the connection between these two events? That's what Frances's daughter, Cara, wants to find out. Abandoned by her mother when she is just seven years old, her childhood is filled with hardship and loss. As a young woman she finds professional success as a journalist, but on a personal level, she still struggles to trust those around her. Soon Cara becomes convinced that uncovering the secret behind her mother's death is the only way to lay her demons to rest, but learning the truth may end up tearing her apart.
Tara Hyland is a relative newcomer to the chick lit world given that this is only her second novel. However, it's her second novel which has received 5 stars from me, so she is definitely an author I have been hugely impressed by in such a short period of time. Her debut novel, Daughters of Fortune, came out last year and it was a great read set around the world of retail. I have to admit that initially the cover of Fallen Angels didn't capture my attention, but now I have read the book, I see how it fits in with the story and I have really changed my opinion of it. It's a fairly big story, but its one that I quickly found myself absorbed into, fell in love with the characters and by the end I was so sad it was finished, that to me is the measure of a fantastic book!
Now usually, I don't go for historical reads because they simply don't interest me. I didn't realise that this entire book was set in the past, from the 1950′s through to the 1980′s, and it doesn't at any point hit the modern day. At first, I expected that it would but around halfway through, I realised it wouldn't get there and I wasn't at all bothered by this. In fact, it was wonderful to read something so different, be swept away into Hollywood's real Golden Era with the glitz and glamour, and have this contrasted with the hardness of life in war time London too. Hyland has clearly done her research in this book, everything is written about in such a way that it brings things to life, making them jump out of the page, especially the character of Franny Fitzgerald, my favourite to read about of the whole book.
Franny begins as a naive young girl in Ireland, desperately in love with Sean, who soon gets her in the family way and abandons her. You feel so sorry for Franny straight away, she is just a young girl in love and has been left with something major to deal with alone, without the support that you get these days if you end up in a similar situation. However, she is a strong character and this really comes through in the book, right up until the story begins to change and take a darker turn. Her daughter Cara is also a wonderful character, a child completely lost in life, lost in the system and treated the way no child should ever be treated, yet she has a shining light come through all of the time, and you can't help but love her. As the story progresses and you see the other hardships that Cara has to face, you just want to stop the bad things happening to her, but Hyland writes them so well you feel like you are going through Cara's emotions with her.
The setting moves around, but I enjoyed this as it stopped the book from becoming too stagnant at any point. It begins in Ireland, moves over to London during the war time with Franny and her baby daughter, then over to the glitz of Hollywood when Franny decides she wants to become a movie star. I have to say I did find it hard to get my head around the decisions that Franny makes, especially as a mum myself, but it did make for very interesting reading. I really did love the scenes with Franny and her fellow actors, you could imagine their gorgeous dressed, flawless make-up and handsome men alongside them and it was great to read. The book well with the change of period of time, related to the reader the things that were happening and I didn't feel out of touch with anything at any time.
I have to say this book was an absolute joy to read, and I definitely recommend it to everyone! There are some shocking revelations throughout that really had me surprised, I didn't guess them at all which was fantastic, and they really did shock me. Hyland did well to lead us as a reader astray, and these twists just made the book even better. It's an excellent story with some fantastic characters facing really bad hardships that hopefully most of us will never have to go through, but it is a story of hope and acceptance, something Cara craves and you so badly want her to get. I loved everything about this book, and will definitely be reading it again in the future. Simply stunning.
ISBN: 978-1847377012. Published by Simon & Schuster UK on 1st September 2011. Pages: 400. RRP: £12.99.
Thank you to the publishers for sending me a copy to review for http://chicklitreviews.com
Thank you for reading.