From the Windham Campbell Prize-winning Irish author of the short story collection Dinosaurs on Other Planets, a debut novel in which a woman's marriage and career are threatened by an old indiscretion just as she receives the opportunity of a lifetime.
In the wrong hands, this book could feel overdetermined ... McLaughlin’s writing is so dry and understated, though, that there’s a sense, even while the tightly packed plot neatly unpacks itself, that these are haphazard incidents in an unfurling life ... The strength of the book lies in its slow-building picture of the way that intimacy and estrangement can coincide ... Through her acute and thoughtful take on issues of truth-telling, McLaughlin reminds us that the novel remains a good mode to investigate our relationship to truth, in part because as a made-up form it remains flexible in its idea of truth ... Being and seeming are both put brilliantly in question in this moving and quietly uplifting book.
... for such a meaty, sparky book — McLaughlin keeps multiple plates not just spinning, but humming harmoniously — the only disappointment is the mimsy, wishy-washy title (the working title Retrospective seems more fitting). It’s a superior work of character-driven literary fiction in the spirit of Bernard MacLaverty or Tessa Hadley. That traditional form, one built on authority and control, may not chime with judges looking for new voices and forms; the prospect of a cracking dinner-party scene may not make your blood rush, but it worked for me. What I’m saying is, if The Art of Falling doesn’t make a prize shortlist or two this year, we should riot.
[McLoughlin] tackles her complex plot with the precision of a master technician: conflicts escalate, and with them suspense, in a well-paced and meticulously conceived narrative ... raises thoughtful questions about responsibility and truthfulness in intimate relationships, about artistic authorship and ownership, and about the roles of gender and of generations in artistic production ... McLaughlin captures the textured tapestries of these compellingly believable lives, from the expensive cars parked outside Jennifer’s private school to the needling discomfort of recalling, in precise detail, the transgressions of decades past. At the same time, The Art of Falling—a title whose layered cleverness only eventually becomes clear—is perhaps a mite tidy, its strands rather too perfectly braided.