false pre-tenses

Falling (Provoost novel)

Falling (1994) (orig. Dutch Vallen) is a novel which was written in Dutch by Anne Provoost.

Plot summary

Lucas is a normal teenage boy; he goes to school and mucks around with his mates. That is, he is normal until the summer that he visits his late grandfather’s house with his mother. His grandfather, to him, is a man to be admired, a man that loves his grandchildren and a man that enjoys spending time with him and telling him stories. His grandfather, to the rest of the town, can range from being a courageous, dedicated patriot to being a loathed, nauseating traitor. Lucas does not understand why this is or why everybody he meets seems to have a different opinion about his grandfather. Lucas does not know the dark, shadowy secrets of his grandfather’s past and nobody wants to tell him. Although Lucas’ grandfather did not serve in the war, he did play a very big part in it for his hometown, Montourin, and Lucas knows nothing of it. While at his grandfather’s house he begins to unravel the mystery that was kept from him and he begins to see why people never told him, why nobody wanted him to know.

Falling was a fantastic, emotive book. In my opinion, the writer did a fantastic job writing it and the whole thing just ‘fit together’. I liked the way she managed to mix so many feelings and emotions into the story and the way she focused on these feelings all the way through. They all just kept recurring in many different forms and I found that, if you looked into the major events of the story, you were sure to find these emotions. In everything that happened in the story, there was a major emotion concealed in the actions of the characters and these emotions showed all the way through the book: This, I thought, was fantastic and a great writing quality. I think the main emotions that showed through the book were anger, fear and, certainly, sadness. Sadness is the most obvious emotion, and the most powerful. The story starts off with the sadness of the death of Lucas’ grandfather for Lucas and his family. Lucas is also very sad, maybe angry, that he and his mother are going to stay in his grandfather’s house and that he is leaving all his friends behind in the city, although it is just for a few weeks he would feel very hard-done-by hard done by and hurt. He is disappointed and frustrated that he will miss out on so much at home and will not be able to spend time with his friends.

It is interesting how the story starts and finishes with sadness. This sadness at the start, with Lucas’ grandfather’s death and leaving his home, and the sadness at the end, with the broken friendship between Caitlin and Lucas. Lucas’ ill-use of power and his extremist actions end up forcing Caitlin and himself apart and, in the end, they actually are not friends at all - very sad. This book really illustrates what the ill use of power can cause and the problems that can be caused by extreme actions and taking things into your own hands. On the whole, it is Lucas’ fault that Caitlin’s dream of dancing has been lost forever. His actions have ruined her life, her dream and her beauty.

The powerful emotion of fear is almost immediately implemented into the story and begins when Lucas’ Grandfather’s house is broken into. This strikes fear with Lucas and his mother and is one of the factors that drove Lucas to perform some of the acts that he did, and started the idea that he needed to protect his mother. Fear is an extremely powerful emotion; it can often drive people to do many, often foolish, things. Fear is an emotion that is so powerful that it can control a person and influence every single thing that they do. Lucas learns to, or is coaxed to, fear the Arabs that have moved to his local small town and he even comes to resent them: for what he doesn’t know, they have actually done nothing to cause him to resent them at all. He is pushed into the thought that it is their fault that the world is becoming messed-up and that they should go back to their country. He also comes to fear Benoit and the hold that he has on him. He fears that Benoit’s ideas may be too radical and he fears that he, himself, is being pulled in too deep, whether this is his or Benoit’s fault. He soon finds himself powerless to defy Benoit and powerless to get out of the cycle Benoit’s manipulation of him. He is being forced by Benoit to do things that he knows are wrong and immoral but he does not, maybe cannot, do anything. His emotions keep getting the better of him and prevailing over his sense of judgement, common sense and morality. Benoit’s persuasive personality and attitude, and his smooth-talking tongue, manage to con Lucas into doing the terrible things that he does. The worst part is, Benoit makes him feel that the immigrants are in the wrong, and that it is Lucas’ responsibility to stop them by any means necessary.

The last main emotion, anger, also features very much in this story. The perfect image of anger in the story would be Benoit. He is fuelled by so much anger and hatred for the immigrants, the Arabs, that he actually drives himself and others to commit crimes to deter them; these actions are extreme, dangerous and uncalled-for. These crimes put their lives, as well as the lives of innocent people, on the line and they are real extreme racist actions. Lucas also has a lot of anger, for example: being taken away from the city and his friends as well as not being told about the truth of his grandfather’s life. He feels that he has been left out and is angry that nobody will tell him about something that is directly impacting on his life. He is angry with the Arabs and how they have taken the jobs and grows to hate them very much. During the story he also becomes angry with Caitlin many times. It appears to him that she is being one-minded about his grandfather and he feels that she is blaming him too much when he has had nothing to do with it. He is angry that she pushes her opinions on him so much and is angry that even she knows about his grandfather. He is also angry when she and him try to catch the dove. He is angry that she drew him there under false pre-tenses and that she treated him so badly when he failed. The chainsaw in the story is a very powerful motif that continues to recur throughout the story. It in itself has a deep meaning and I think it symbolizes power. The chainsaw is used many times in the story and it is even emphasised in some parts. With the chainsaw, Lucas feels powerful and he is happy to be able to use it. It makes him feel strong and commanding and he likes this. At the end of the story the chainsaw is actually a bit of a curse to him and, instead of symbolizing Lucas’ power, it symbolizes his misuse of power and all the trouble this has got him into. Overall, I found the beginning of the book a little dull and it did not particularly draw my attention, it just started by telling a little of a few of the final events in the story and gives us a little introduction into the life of Lucas. When Caitlin is introduced however, the story really starts to liven up. This, to me, marked the point where Lucas’ life takes a leap, becomes so much more complicated and where Lucas begins to become entangled in mystery and legend. Caitlin stirs up, perhaps provokes, Lucas and all his beliefs. She challenges all his morals, values and his actual sense of himself. Caitlin, in herself, is a very challenging and demanding person. She is strong, assertive and perhaps a little aggressive at times. Benoit is also introduced at about the same time as Caitlin and they both seem to have very conflicting beliefs. Lucas struggles to find a medium with them both and begins to find it hard to deal with them both together. He begins to get sucked in by Benoit and succumbs to his persuasive attitudes and his control. Benoit is an influential, manipulative person who is also very precise and leaves nothing to chance. He has exceedingly strong opinions and is not afraid to take action. He frequently airs his opinions and will not let anything get in his way.

He is the type of person that you know to beware of, but also the type of person that can suck you in without you even knowing it. This was Lucas’ problem. Lucas was very vulnerable and Benoit took advantage of this. Benoit completely used Lucas and then, after Lucas had come to his senses and had had enough, Benoit took his revenge by denouncing, slandering and twisting the facts to make Lucas sound like a monster.

I think the aim of the writer in this book was to portray emotion and demonstrate how misuse of power can go terribly wrong. I think she aimed to express heaps of feeling in the story and to show the ultimate effects that people can have upon others, how control can be deadly and the way extremist actions can impact on others, including innocent people towards whom it is not directed. The story raises a lot of interesting questions about human nature and makes you wonder how we can do these things. Racism is a big issue in the story and discrimination recurs all the way through. The terrible thing in the story is the fact that I realised that the characters in the story are not all made up. There are actually people in this world that would do these things, it’s actually really sad. I found that the language that the writer used really suited the type of text and she used words to their full effect. The language was not too complicated, but the writer did use some challenging words: This, I think, adds to the overall experience of the book. The writer used a great style of writing that I found very good and related to. I particularly liked the characters and how the writer described them. I liked the way the writer described so much about all the characters and how they all played a part story. One character that I especially liked was Benoit and the way the writer depicted him. His character was so dark and mysterious and he played such a big part of everything. Benoit made the story what it was and he was, of course, the main character. Caitlin was also a very well done character was also described very well. The characters were so realistic and the scenarios were so believable. The way that Lucas’ character progresses through the book was incredible. He changes so much and his attitudes towards everything change so much. His real self comes out in the story and he changes heaps. The plot of the story was really well constructed, the story had a great basis and the writer expanded on the initial idea with plenty of detail. The story was exciting and exhilarating but I felt the writer did not put enough emphasis upon the climax and it was not as much of a high point as I would’ve liked. The story was dramatic all through and was filled with action and suspense. The town and the setting were well done and the way the writer explained tit was very good. The whole story was detailed and well written using a good selection of language.


Awards and nominations

n.b. awards sourced from 1995


  • Honour List IBBY
  • de Interprovinciale Prijs voor Jeugdliteratuur



Publishing history

  • 1994, Belgium, Houtekiet (ISBN 978-9052402789), pub date ? ? 1994, paperback (Vallen first edition in Dutch))
  • 1997, UK, Allen & Unwin (ISBN 978-1864484441), pub date 1 September 1997, paperback (first edition in English)


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