by Sarah Moss
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Pub Date 01 Mar 2022 | Archive Date 05 Apr 2022
“A slim, tense page-turner . . . I gulped The Fell down in one sitting.”
—Emma Donoghue, author of The Pull of the Stars
From the award-winning author of Ghost Wall and Summerwater, Sarah Moss's The Fell is a riveting novel of mutual responsibility, personal freedom, and the ever-nearness of disaster.
At dusk on a November evening, a woman slips through her garden gate and turns up the hill. Kate is in the middle of a two-week mandatory quarantine period, a true lockdown, but she can’t take it anymore—the closeness of the air in her small house, the confinement. And anyway, the moor will be deserted at this time. Nobody need ever know she’s stepped out.
Kate planned only a quick walk—a stretch of the legs, a breath of fresh air—on paths she knows too well. But somehow she falls. Injured, unable to move, she sees that her short, furtive stroll will become a mountain rescue operation, maybe even a missing person case.
Sarah Moss’s The Fell is a story of mutual responsibility, personal freedom, and compassion. Suspenseful, witty, and wise, it asks probing questions about how close so many live to the edge and about who we are in the world, who we are to our neighbors, and who we become when the world demands we shut ourselves away.
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 129 members
I ended 2020 and began 2021 reading Moss's entire canon back to back - to say I enjoy her writing immensely is an understatement. Her newest novel (or perhaps, at 160 pages, novella?), does not disappoint, and seems to be in the first flux of books directly addressing the current pandemic and quarantine. Like her previous masterwork, Summerwater, the book takes place within a single day, and bounces amongst the perspectives of several different characters. Here, her canvas is much smaller than the dozen plus narrators of that book, encompassing just 4 main protagonists.
As always Moss's prose is an absolute pleasure to read, flowing effortlessly, with hidden depths and boundless humanity. Perhaps the only quibble is that it is maybe TOO short, which somehow makes it seem a slighter endeavor - I wanted more than just a few brief hours in the company of Moss's characters and writing.
Thanks to Netgalley and FSG for the ebook. Kate has been furloughed from her job at the diner and is in the middle of a two week quarantine, when she needs to get out and walk. She heads to the moors, where she has a very slight chance of running into anyone. When Kate falls and hurts herself badly, she becomes a missing person and a rescue team is assembled. This short but potent book has four narrators: Kate, her son Matt, a retired next door neighbor who also can’t leave her house during this pandemic because she’s recovering from breast cancer, and one of the rescue team, a volunteer named Rob. These four voices take us through this crisis, but also take us inside the early days of the pandemic when life was scary with more questions than answers about this new world.
The Fell wonderfully captures the reality of our recent pandemic lockdowns — this isn’t metaphorical or an imagining of how some fictional pandemic might play out — this is the essence of November 2020. Set in England’s Peak District (in view of the orange glow of Manchester but the details are so relatable to this Canadian), as yet another stay-at-home order pits the essential workers against the furloughed, the rule-followers against the scofflaws, frazzled parents against bored children, one woman decides that she’s had enough. Although only on day eight of a two week quarantine (single mother Kate and her teenaged son, Matt, don’t have symptoms but they’ve apparently been exposed to someone with COVID), Kate is fed up with being locked down. Used to a daily ramble on the nearby fells, Kate grabs her rucksack as the day is waning — convinced she won’t meet anyone as the sky starts to drizzle, she doesn’t intend to be out long and doesn’t even say goodbye to her son — but when Matt realises she’s missing and the night turns dark and cold, he’s uncertain where to turn for help: Do you call the police when your Mom is breaking the law and risking a huge fine? As employed so well in her last novel Summerwater, author Sarah Moss uses rotating POVs to look at the pandemic (in this case, from four different perspectives; all believably real characters having varied experiences), but this is mostly Kate’s story, and as it unspools, we realise that it’s her fragile mental health that’s forcing her to act out. This is a short read — under 200 pages — so while it could have gone into more depth, it’s hardly shallow. Rounding up to four stars.
Set in November 2020 when most of the world was on lockdown on account of the global pandemic , Sarah Moss’s The Fell revolves around Kate, who furloughed from her job , is self-isolating at home with her son Matt after being exposed to COVID -19. Feeling restless and stir crazy, one evening she decides to go for a walk along the hills close to home, falls and is seriously injured . Not knowing what has happened to his mother Matt correctly assumes that his mother went for a walk and is initially annoyed that she broke the law by venturing out of the house while supposed to be in quarantine . However, as the night progresses and after it is confirmed that Alice,their next door neighbor, saw her walking towards the moors , the search for Kate develops into a mountain rescue operation amidst worsening weather conditions.
The story is told through a stream of consciousness narrative from the perspectives of four people- Kate, Matt, Alice and Rob. Kate’s thoughts flit between her financial worries compounded by fear of being fined on account of her breaking quarantine laws , her son Matt and the life choices she is made to reflect upon through a dazed and delirious conversation with a raven she meets on her expedition. Matt concerned for Kate’s physical and emotional well-being is made to mull over his own behaviors and feelings, realizing how much is at stake for him for his mother to return home safe and sound. On one hand we see him as a difficult self absorbed teenager while on the the other we see the mature way in which tries to remain hopeful busying himself with household chores while responsibly interacting with his next door neighbor Alice keeping with quarantine regulations . Alice is an elderly widow and cancer survivor struggling to adjust to the isolation brought on by the pandemic and recent widowhood , but tries to remain hopeful and keep up Matt’s spirits while making plans to lead a fuller life once the pandemic ends. Rob, the mountain rescue volunteer whose team along is tasked with finding Kate, ponders over whether Kate’s action were deliberate and whether she was driven to drastic behavior motivated by personal reasons while also questioning his own motivations for volunteering for such risky endeavors in his downtime often at the cost of his personal relationships.
The author takes us on an insightful exploration into the mind and thoughts of people in the midst of the global pandemic delving deep into the emotional toll of forced isolation and uncertainty on the human psyche and the need for human interaction and contact in trying times. The author does not hesitate to touch upon how lives and livelihoods are affected when regulations set in place for the greater good and out of consideration for the health and well being of others can test people's powers of endurance and push them to their limits. Tense and fast paced, reflective and thought provoking , The Fell is an almost too relatable depiction of how the pandemic has changed the way we live, think and behave . Once I adjusted to the stream-of-consciousness narrative, I was completely reeled into this relatively short but immersive novel. Though this is not a lengthy novel, it is very deep and absorbing and I took time to pause and take a breather when it felt too heavy or just got too real. This was my first Sarah Moss novel and I look forward to reading more of her work.
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher Farrar ,Straus and Giroux for the eARC in return for an honest review.
I received an advanced reader’s copy in exchange for an honest review
This book was really unexpected. I loved her last two, and was expecting more of the same. Was definitely not looking for a Covid read, but this book all the right notes. Always enjoyable when the real villain in the psychological thriller is the human condition. Easy five.
The lovely minimalist black, brown and white cover which graces this edition of The Fell declares that this is a novel by “the author of Summerwater”. For this reader, this is not really a selling point. I had loved Sarah Moss’ Ghost Wall, with its quasi-folk-horror vibes, but been less impressed with Summerwater. So I’m happy to report that I lapped up The Fell, which I found at once thoughtful and gripping.
The plot’s premise is simple and, as in Summerwater, it unfolds over a single day. The novel(la) is set in November 2020, in a remote village in the Peak District, during the UK’s Covid lockdown. Kate, one of the quartet of main characters, finds herself increasingly restless in the middle of a two-week mandatory quarantine period. Neither she nor her teenage son Matt are actually infected, but they are obliged to stay at home in view of a contact with a Covid-positive person. Surely, Kate thinks, a visit to the fells she loves so much will hardly hurt anyone? On impulse, she leaves home for what is meant to be a quick walk, but matters get complicated when she falls and sustains an injury.
As in John McGregor’s Lean, Fall, Stand, the ensuing rescue operation and race against time give The Fell the trappings of a thriller, but that is not really the point of the novel. What makes The Fell particularly interesting is a technique Moss also uses in Summerwater, that is, the alternating of different points of view, conveyed in almost stream-of-consciousness style, as we are drawn into the thoughts of the protagonists, all of whom have been, in different ways, affected by the Covid pandemic. There is Kate herself, feeling increasingly confined at home, the claustrophobia of her little house accentuating her feelings of inadequacy. There is Matt, torn between reporting his missing mum and risking her getting a fine which they cannot afford. There is Alice, their pensioner neighbour and possible the character I liked best, musing about mortality and privilege; and also Rob, one of the rescue team, who juggles daring rescues with the stress of family life. Their thoughts and feelings, and such dialogue as there is, have an authentic feel to them.
The Fell feels timely but, once the pandemic is (hopefully) past, it will also serve as an important historical document albeit in the context of a fictional story. Moss is highly observant, conveying with startling empathy the minute details of life in lockdown and quarantine. She does not judge. While at times, the novel seems to suggest a frustration at Covid measures, this is no anti-vaxxer manifesto and its approach is balanced and understanding both of the need for the enforcement of Covid measures, and the disruption and difficulties that these inevitably bring.
Out on the moors, missing her choir practice, Kate sings Thomas Ravenscroft’s “Remember O thou man”. The choice of music is probably an oblique hint at the deeper themes of the novella – “Adam’s fall” and his subsequent redemption, as mentioned in this Renaissance carol, reflect Kate’s physical fall, but also raise philosophical questions about life and death, actions and consequences, guilt and absolution.
Another terrific Sarah Moss title. Honestly, my first thought was that it’s too soon for a pandemic book and considered not finishing it after a few pages. Perhaps that was just my mood that day. Glad I did stick with it. It’s a quick read, written in a stream of consciousness style, similar to Moss’ previous novel Summerwater. It captures the essence of how Covid & lockdowns have affected the main characters. As with Summerwater, I found the end abrupt. Regardless, a book to ponderand perhaps to read in a few years. Highly recommended. Thanks to author, publisher and NetGalley for a preview copy.
Thank you to Netgalley for an ARC of 'The Fell' by Sarah Moss.
4.5 Stars rounded down to four.
Kate can't bare being stuck indoors in isolation any more and 'harmlessly goes for a walk up the fell. She falls and leaves her son alone. I really sympathised with these brilliantly sincere characters.
A great, tense plot. Best read in one sitting.
My first by this author, The Fell made me feel like I was in this small town in England quarantining by law. I felt the claustrophobic suffocation. I felt the quiet and the internal almost panic. The writing was interesting - kind of stream of consciousness with paragraphs lengths that added to the feelings described above. I’ll be thinking of this for quite some time and am looking forward to reading more of Ms Moss’ work. Heartfelt thanks to Farrar, Straus and Giroux for the advanced copy.
An excellent pandemic novel, thoughtful, realistic and insightful. Kate is supposed to stay at home, but with her beloved Peak District fells just outside her door, is tempted out on a hike. After all, what harm could it do? Even though it is technically against the law. Inevitably things don’t go according to plan and it becomes impossible to keep her infringement of the rules a secret. Multiple voices and multiple viewpoints make this an immersive read, which deftly captures our new strange world. Sarah Moss is so good at everyday intimacies and everyday relationships, and is never judgemental – as opposed to some of her characters. And yet we all dealt with lockdown as best we could given our individual circumstances, and this immersive novel will strike a chord with everyone.
Not quite as gripping as Sarah Moss' last book but still a dark, relatable tale with finely drawn characters.
A very satisfying Sarah Moss! I found the tension between the characters, even though they rarely, if ever, interact, to be really compelling. I also found this book contained some profound and familiar moments from life in lockdown. I didn't think I would want to read pandemic fiction while we are still in it, but this was very good. It might be my least favorite Moss I've read, but her writing is always precise and well-considered.
A wonderful prose filled description of life during lockdown with the illness never bei g named. There is Matt the son and Kate, the mother who goes missing on the fell. An emotional must read.
The Fell – Sarah Moss
I recently read and discovered Sarah Moss’ writing and have loved it. The Fell is written in her signature style, loads to love about it, the breathless stream of consciousness and the singular insights into her characters. Having said that I think the first time’s the charm as the first book I read by her summerwater is still my favourite.
The Fell takes place during the second Covid lockdown in the UK. The story is from the perspective of 4 characters one of whom, Kate, the mother of Matt, a teenager, breaks quarantine and decides to go for a walk on the Fells, falls and has to be rescued.
While I haven’t broken quarantine as such we have all had our moments of desperation when home feels like prison and not being able to leave it can drive you nuts. I know older people who just have not been able to cope and have begun an unstoppable downward spiral. Alice an elderly lady and Kate’s neighbor is one of the main characters and her reflections are quite endearing. The whole state vs us as individuals can really be suffocating specially for a generation that has enjoyed quite a bit of freedom and has not had to compromise much as compared to our predecessors.
The urgency of Sarah Moss’ writing coupled with the topic makes it quite a compelling read. Having said that I don’t think it’s the best by her compared to the two I read before this but loved it all the same.
Thank you @netgalley for the e arc
Short version: one day, three families in COVID epidemic. Kate and her son are in forced lockdown. Alice is a widow and recovering from cancer. Rob is a mountain rescuer with his daughter at the weekend.
I didn't read Sarah Moss before, really did like to read this book. About the first 30 pages, I was going to drop it off. The writing style was encouraging so, I thought it's a short book let's finish it. I'm happy did that and I'm going to read more from this author.
Yes at first, there were so many grump and fuss about limitations. I know it's hard and has a serious of consequences, but really? So bad you compare with world wars?! The only thing we have to do is stay at home, Okay it's our home, is it so awful? I'm not going to judge but this was too much.
As the story goes on, every character could be better known. Alice became my favorite character. She was eating all cookies while she had cancer, bad choice and very gave me stress. But then I began to realize. This was the magic of this book, of this story I really don't like the contents, you really can understand characters. It's true right, you can not always take the sane logical right decisions, can you?
"Self-isolating, one of those horrible new nonsensical phrases. Social distancing, Medical distance, they should call it, or why not just safe distance, and when did ‘distance‘ become a verb?"
Kate, an unhappy one, who couldn't stay in a place, if see her from the good side, an outdoor person. She is a single mum and really cares about her teenage son. In the beginning, she was just looking irresponsible. You see, with some patience, characters reveal themselves and this was beautiful.
"She doesn’t even want to remember singing in pubs, how can that ever happen again, the singing or the pubs let alone both.
... Though at least there were dances in the war, weren’t there, and concerts, and sex, lots of sex, at least people were allowed to see each other."
This is a book about three families in the pandemic. How life changes forever, how almost everybody struggles to keep their incomes, try to deal with children, worried about prices, and all that. A 4-star book, a little sad and dark for me.
Many thanks to Farrar, Straus and Giroux and NetGalley for giving me a chance to read The Fell by Sarah Moss, I have given my honest review.
I liked the book. It touches the theme of how reclusion affects some people and the consequences of our acts . Kate, in quarantine period, decides to go for a walk to the moors thinking nobody will know of her transgression, but she fells and her delay to go home worries her son, who goes for help to their neighbour Alice, an elderly woman who saw Kate walking to the woods but couldn´t stop her. The story has 4 points of view: Kate, her son, Alice, the neighbour, and Rob a rescuer who had to go out his house to go for Kate.
I enjoyed two of the author’s previous novels, Ghost Wall and Summerwater. The Fell has the same foreboding as her earlier books along with a good dose of sharp humor. Set in late 2020, this book clearly captures the angst of the moment.
First things first, this is NOT an ode to the anti-vaxxer/COVID-denier. Rather, this is a perfectly observed novel that explores how hard it is to stick to all the rules during a pandemic. That is not to say that people should break those rules, but merely that being in a pandemic, and particularly being in lockdown is exhausting, spirit crushing and socially isolating. These observations aren't particularly novel (which is why I am so surprised to see reviews being upvoted that say this is anti lockdown, I presume those people loved every minute of lockdown), but they way Sarah Moss writes it crystalizes exactly how I, at least, felt during those long and dark days of being trapped. In so doing Moss respectfully explores the trauma that we have all experienced, which in its own way is quite liberating to read. Funnily enough, the more delusional reviews parallel exactly those people in the book who are so quick to judge others (e.g., wanting to report someone to the police for going on a walk alone to relieve mental health issues), the difference being that Sarah Moss delivers those stories without being divisive, without judgement or acidity. I loved this book, Ghost Wall and Summerwater and I can't wait to see what Moss writes next.
I have been a fan of Sarah Moss since reading her book on her year living in Iceland.
This short novel takes place during a stringent Covid lockdown in the U.K. Kate is restless, being used to hiking in the hills. She feels there is no harm hiking on her own as she would not be in contact with anyone. She neglects to tell her teenage son she is going out and does not take a cellphone. All does not go as planned.
I do not believe any reasonable person would take this as anti mask or anti social distancing text. In fact it shows the interdependency of human life. To my understanding,,Regulations in the U.K. were stricter than any anywhere in the US.
I found this book suspenseful and moving and a comment on our times while events are still ongoing and thoughtful people are trying to get an understanding of our situation.
Thank you to NetGalley and FSG for this e-arc.
Highly recommend this book! This was my first book to read by this author and I can't wait to read more! The characters and the story stay with you long after you finish the book. One of the best books I have read in a long time.
The Fell is set in late 2020. England is in the grips of a Covid-19 pandemic. Kate and her teenage son Matt are in the middle of a two week quarantine after a possible exposure to the virus. Kate is chafing at the bit with being confined to her semi-rural home and one afternoon she slips out for a short walk up into the nearby Peak District National Park. But she has a fall, badly injuring herself.
The book is narrated from four points of view. Kate, on the mountain. Her son Matt, at home and not knowing where she is. Her elderly neighbour Alice who sees Kate heading out. And Rob who volunteers with the local search and rescue operation.
I love the way that Sarah Moss puts you inside different people's heads and how each character has a different view about both the pandemic and the events of that night. I read one review on Good Reads which says that Moss is anti social distancing and masks but I can't imagine what gave them that impression. If anything it reads like a cautionary tale. What I did find is that my own opinions about whether Kate should have done what she did influenced my ability to feel sympathy for her predicament, but I think that was partly Moss's intention: that we should be confronted with our own biases and also have to consider other points of view.
Although I love Moss's books, I've noticed that she tends to wrap them up in a rush, as though the editor has rung her and said "you're out of time, just finish it today". I felt this way with both Ghost Wall and Summerwater: all that tension gets built up and then it's all resolved in a flurry of quick action. Again with The Fell, I wanted a bit more resolution about what happened next but again I think that was Moss's intention, to leave it slightly open for us to think about.
I received a copy for review via Net Galley.
I didn't think I was ready to read a book set during the pandemic but I could not ignore a new Sarah Moss. Honestly, this book proves again why she is a writer I will jump to read. In less than 200 pages she manages to give us such a complete, vivid peek into the heads of four distinct individuals as they go through one day of November 2020. It is intense and gripping and the kind of magic most authors could not manage with twice as many pages.
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
So many pandemic novels flooding our e-readers! This one is good; Kate has cabin fever and goes for a walk on the fell although of course she is not meant to leave the house. What could possibly go wrong? It is her son who takes the brunt of the worry when she doesn't return, especially as he is afraid to report her missing in case she gets into trouble for breaking the pandemic isolation rules. Excellent character-driven plot and lovely writing. Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for an advance digital review copy.
The tension and suspense of this novel had me gritting my teeth. The writing style and descriptions of the setting placed me right inside the book. This was a very quick read that has me flipping pages like crazy. This story takes place in a single day and is very character driven with loots of internal dialogue which made me feel closer to the characters. It was a pleasant surprise to see the very human side to COVID. Most of the books I've read come from the political or scientive side of things. It was very refreshing to get inside the head of someone who has to isolate. It seemed very true to like about what that feels like and how others react to those who don't follow the rules.
I wasn't sure I wanted to read a book set during the pandemic. However. I found it to be well written, and informative of the UK experience in 2020. I'm glad I read it and can now add another Sarah Moss book to my list of read books.
Thank you NetGalley and the publisher for the advance digital copy.
The fell is a stifling, gorgeous novella about a small community during pandemic lockdown over a day long period. Our key player is Kate, the mother of teenage Matt. Kate is currently quarantining due to Covid exposure and we follow her stream of consciousness narrative for much of the book, as she goes about her daily activities, eventually deciding to risk a possible fine just to galavant about the mountainous area near her home. I can understand why readers may have perceived Kate as selfish and against the quarantine, but I think that Moss did a fantastic job of showing just how monotonous and claustrophobic isolation can be for many people.
My only previous experience with stream of consciousness has been Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, which I hated, due to the characters blending together. Moss has written such distinct voices for all of the characters. Additionally, later on the utilization of stream of consciousness allowed the reader to be fully immersed in Kate’s mind as she spiraled into a primitive, visceral fear. This was a great read, and I’m looking forward to delving into Moss’ backlist now.
After reading a pandemic novel (Wish You Were Here) and a covid memoir (What Just Happened: Notes on a Long Year), I swore I would not, could not, read any others. Sarah Moss is the only author I would make an exception for, but The Fell is much more than pandemic fiction. A two-week quarantine sets the stage for the story of Kate, and several other characters contribute their perspectives on the feelings of claustrophobia, isolation, vulnerability, and the almost overwhelming uncertainty that we have all felt for several years. Sarah Moss has written much of this book in an internal, stream-of-consciousness way, which I appreciated because it seemed to closely match my thinking. There are daily details along with larger philosophical questions. The story takes place over a single day with interesting chapter titles, and as always, Moss' thoughtful prose is a joy to read. My only complaint may be that it was too short, but that is simply because I wanted to be able to keep reading more of my favorite Sarah Moss book (so far).
"There will be holes in the children’s education, a generation that’s forgotten or never learnt how to go to a party, people of all ages who won’t forget to be afraid to leave the house, to be afraid of other people, afraid to touch or dance or sing, to travel, to try on clothes – whisht, she thinks again, hush now. Walk."
Thank you to Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book.
It feels like we haven't experienced COVID long enough for someone to write a smart, surprising quarantine novel, but Sarah Moss did exactly that in THE FELL. Sarah's characters, who are experiencing a harsher lockdown than most of us, prickle with the claustrophobia and fear necessary to explaining quarantine. I was haunted, especially by the character of Alice. Overall, I really loved this work.
This was my first Sarah Moss read and I thought it was beautifully written. It’s incredibly intimate, making the reader feel as though they’re sitting alongside the characters themselves as each scene plays out. She so authentically captures the angst and tension of a life in lockdown, which felt relatable and in a way comforting - knowing there are others experiencing and feeling the same frustrations and anxieties that I myself am experiencing during the pandemic. I enjoyed the way Moss delicately touches on some moral dilemmas that have arisen in this new way of living - whether to dob in rule breaking neighbours and what’s the ‘right’ thing to do with regards to helping someone when faced with lockdown constraints. It wouldn’t describe it as an overly gripping story, more of a quiet, reflective novel – covering this strange new world and its impact on humanity.
I really didn’t think I wanted to read another COVID-novel. I really enjoyed Sarah Hall’s Burntcoat, which seemed firmly rooted in the fictional world. But when another of my favorite literary Sarahs, Sarah Moss, author of the fantastic Ghost Wall, announced she too had written a COVID novel, I was willing to brace myself again.
In The Fell, we meet Kate, who decides to go for a walk during her two-week quarantine period. But when Kate doesn’t return, her teenage son Matt rings the alarm, and the search is on. In a treacherous area, with falling temperatures, and minimal provisions, time is of the essence.
I won’t lie, it took me three attempts to get into the rhythms of this book, but once I started in earnest, I consumed the whole thing in one day. The reader is welcomed inside the minds of the characters, following their trains of thought as they go off on tangents. Each character has such a unique voice; I imagine The Fell works well as an audiobook.
Aspects of The Fell felt very familiar to me. I spent the first thirty year of my life in the UK, and the people and culture are still a very big part of my life. The fear of “disobeying” the government, small-minded people snitching on their neighbors; unfortunately, it all rings incredibly true. Luckily, the main characters of Kate, Matt, and their neighbor Alice, reflect the friendlier Brits I know and love.
The Fell is a brief, timely novel, vividly capturing a moment in time that may not be looked upon fondly. However, the all-too-believable situation certainly helped me to connect to the characters. Established fans of Sarah Moss will really enjoy The Fell; another short, sharp novel for a brilliant writer.
Sarah Moss is fast becoming one of my favorite authors, and "The Fell" is another great example of why her books are must reads for me. Set in England's Peak District in November of 2020 during their second pandemic lockdown, "The Fell" presents four alternating and interconnecting storylines: Single mom Kate, who is supposed to be self-isolating; Kate's teenaged son, Matt; their "extremely vulnerable" elderly neighbor, Alice; and Rob, the mountain rescue volunteer spending the weekend with his teenaged daughter Ellie. When avid outdoorswoman Kate can't resist breaking her quarantine to take a quick walk in the hills, she sets off a chain of events that will link these four people over the course of one long and harrowing night.
I've been reading quite a few pandemic era books, from Ali Smith's early entry "Summer" to Gary Shteyngart's "Our Country Friends" and this is a favorite. Moss's third person omniscient narration for each character puts the reader into their minds in a way that vividly captures all the emotions--helplessness, ennui, loss of agency, fear, etc--that characterized our first COVID-19 year and brought back relatable memories. Quite apart from the pandemic setting, however, "The Fell" also works as a page-turning adventure tale written in language that is beautifully evocative of the natural world. I read it in one very enjoyable sitting and highly recommend both it and Sarah Moss' earlier books.
Thank you to NetGalley and Farrar, Straus and Giroux for providing me with an ARC of this title in return for my honest review. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
The action in this slim volume spans a twenty-four hour period in the lives of 4 characters. The setting is Britain's Peak District and the time is November, 2020. The world is obsessed with a pandemic that requires the wearing of masks and quarantines. The author moves deeper into the global and focuses on four people in a village. Rob is a single father and a volunteer with the local mountain rescue group. Alice is a mid-seventies widow recovering from cancer treatment. Kate, known in the village as a "daft hippy" and her sixteen-year-old son, Matt are quarantining because Matt has been exposed to COVID-19 at school.. They busy with themselves with ordinary tasks but Kate increasingly feels the pull of the outdoors and late one afternoon she heads for the the hills without her phone and without telling Matt. When Kate doesn't return home the four lives intertwine. Over a 24 hour period the personal fears of each character are revealed through their stream-of-consciousness narration.
There are touches of humor and acts of kindness as well as insights into personal freedom, social responsibility, immortality and family relationships. Moss is a master of packing a lot into a small book. In The Fell she extrapolates the personal from within a broad societal problem. It's book you won't forget.
Thank you Net Galley for this astonishing book by Sarah Moss about single mother Kate, who can no longer stand being caged indoors during the pandemic. This book has a soul. It is magical. I recommend it without reservation.
I heard this author interviewed on one of the BBC's culture podcasts Front Row and even though this isn't my usual choice of fiction (domestic), I found it available on Net Galley and gave it a read, my interest sparked even more by a few reviews on this platform that claimed to stop reading the novel because they found it morally reprehensible. Because the novel's setting takes place during Covid lockdown, Moss is interested in exploring the psychic and social repercussions of forcing people to remain in their house and suspend their daily lives. For some readers, feeling compassion for those who resisted such measures was reason enough to stop reading.
The writing style is a bit hard to get into as it's all indirect monologue and you are thrust into the meandering thoughts of each character as they deal with their own anguished challenges during lockdown, many of these challenges erupt from isolation and subsequent inertia and paranoia. Most of the novel surrounds an event that incites horror, intrigue, envy, and fear when the main character Kate decides to take a walk on the fell. She has been confined to her house due to possible exposure to Covid and has reached a point of not giving a fuck anymore, fed up with the limitations of her house and garden, living 24/7 with her teenage son. Her desire to get on with it (life) is expressed early on as she thinks about the miners who once inhabited the house where she now lives with her son. "...not as if there weren't epidemics then too, the original inhabitants, but they got on with it, didn't they? people died and they were sad, but they didn't wall themselves up."
Once she gets outside, away from the town and its inhabitants, her small, confining house and her near-poverty, however, she cannot stop wandering deeper and farther into the hills. A raven becomes her companion and eventual lifesaver as she continues her walk further and further way from the world that has confined her, and even when she must deal with a life-threatening situation, it seems even at its most dire a better alternative to suicidal ideation, anxiety, depression, and constant fear of being infected by others that the other world, the one of lockdown, holds. (less)
this book is of a kind i never anticipated that i would read: the dreaded 'pandemic novel'. though this book was guilty of many of the things that made me hesitant about picking up such a book (particularly the a brand of cultural criticism that never feels as cutting or authentic as many a fiction writer writing on the 'now' times intends) i still felt that there were things to appreciate about this books. moss is a confident and sure writer, the journey of the characters (read: Kate) feels intriguing without being forced and her voice feels stylistically different from the voices of the other three perspectives. though the sort of commentary on contemporary times felt like a fictionalised reenactment of twitter discourse in the past year, i still think that i'm eager to read other sarah moss (just not this one probably ever again haha)
Sarah Moss has a distinct style, unique. Her three books that I've read employ almost a stream of consciousness, utilizing alternating POVs to fashion her story, and this is her take on the current world under the pandemic. A woman usually energetic and self quarantining with her teenage son, leaves the house for a much needed walk on the hillside, intending to return before he notices. The ensuing hours unfold with increasing immediacy through the lives of the woman, her son, an elderly neighbor, and a member of a mountain rescue team. There is the frustration and claustrophobia of the current situation, plus the fear of the unknown, the helpful research acknowledged by Moss in an afterword. Her books are slim in length, but mighty in content.
As I'm sure is the case for many readers, I was hesitant to tackle a book that not only referenced the pandemic but was specifically about the pandemic. However, I'm glad I persisted because I found The Fell almost cathartic. The close third person narration and short timescale made it a compelling read, and I found the voices of the characters rang true in a way that allowed empathise with them.
I'm not sure I will be reading more pandemic fiction any time soon, but I'm glad I made an exception for this one.
Wonderful writing as always from Sarah Moss. I really loved the sense of impending doom in relation to Kate’s ‘walk’ - it all felt so real and raw and it was something that a lot of people will relate to. I wasn’t sure about reading a pandemic related book, but the different perspectives really took away from the Covid - emphasis and I loved the fact it felt very real. Also loved the raven and the description of the landscape - something that is always rich in Moss’s writing. Overall, a good read.
I absolutely loved this book. I have been quite hesitant about picking up a book based on the current scenario but I knew I would be in safe hands with Sarah Moss, and I was right. This short novel revolves around a woman who decides to take a risky decision to step out of her house, while she and her son have been advised to isolate themselves in their house. While the core of the story is about Kate, she is merely a means to take us through the repercussions of her behaviour and the pandemic on the lives of people rom different scenarios.
The best part of this book according to me, is the representation of various compelling arguments and perspectives of people who you wouldn't generally agree with. As most of her books that I have read in the past, Sarah Moss zooms into one specific incident in the life of one person while also manipulating the reader to ponder about the larger questions that are relevant to the world. She has also done an impeccable job on representing the effect of time as a construct on our perception and severity of an incident. I thought she raised an important question about time in this book - Does time heal? Or does it make you indifferent about your feelings, hence giving you the solace of being healed?
I loved it and would highly recommend this one to everyone!
Thanks to the publisher for an ARC of this book. I thoroughly enjoyed the writing, even though this book hit a bit too close to home as we are still slogging our way through this pandemic. Very thought provoking with themes focusing on personal responsibility.
I have not spent much time reading about the pandemic, a couple of books... but not one struck me like this one did. It takes place over the course of a few hours on a day after UK lockdown had been in effect for two weeks.
There are just four characters (plus The Raven, can't forget The Raven!) and those four characters each bring something different to these few hours.
It made me stop and think about isolation, fear of coming in contact with other people who might be "contagious" and breaking the rules... and which rules are okay to break?
I wish I could say I connected with Kate... but I don't break the rules, so I struggled a bit with Kate. However, her conversations with The Raven are quite simply, brilliant!
I really connected with Alice...very much. She broke my heart and my hope is that out of these few hours... a new family might be born!
Moss has broken down the essence of Pandemic Living perfectly. You will find yourself nodding with much of what is "talked about." Moss also tickles your brain and makes you think... in very good ways.
I highly recommend this book!
I want to thank Netgalley and Farrar, Straus and Giroux for the ARC of this book!
Is there any other book in this universe that can better articulate how we all felt during the month long quarantine? I guarantee not.
The Fell is more of an introspective book than a thriller playing with conscience and thought processes, promptly pushing the problem at hand to a backseat. A random raven flying across the fell becomes a spirit guide and the protagonist imagines justifying herself to it. It’s quirky and wild. And it’s everything you’ve felt when you were cooped up in the house for too long.
Kate is supposed to quarantine with her son, Matt. But the solitary confinement is taking a toll on her. When she couldn’t take it any longer, she set out on a stroll.
Matt, confused at his Mom’s sudden disappearance tries to remain calm.
Alice, Kate’s next door neighbor is struggling with breast cancer. She decides not to call the authorities on her neighbor but is fraught with worry when Kate doesn’t return.
I thoroughly enjoyed this novella, at only 131 pages, it certainly packs a punch.
Told from four protagonists POV we get into their hearts and souls. Written with intimately relatable characters, they could be your own friends and neighbour’s.
I wasn’t sure if I was ready for a Covid lockdown read, but reading this was like having a conversation with a couple of friends.
The author does not waste a word! It’s not about the pandemic. It’s about love, friendships, relationships, judgment, mistakes and regrets. It’s deeply reflective and thought provoking. Beautiful, atmospheric and evocative prose.
I felt the ending was a bit rushed … abrupt, obviously the author's intent. I wanted more, but I always do with a great story!
Out 1 March 2022
Thank you to NetGalley for this ARC.
I'd like to thank Netgalley for an arc of what I assume will be the American release of "The Fell" by Sarah Moss, due to arrive in early March.
Whereas my experience with lockdowns hasn't been quite the same as what has been happening in Britain, the feelings that the characters feel are fairly universal. The constant stagnation brought on by the length of this pandemic, the way life is put on hold and it can lead to feelings of frustration and a fatigue of the constant holding pattern we're all stuck in.
I loved the characters that Moss created. I particularly loved Annie. The moment when she was yelling out to Matt, and they were being so cautious, trying to connect and care when they couldn't; struck me as particularly poignant.
I will say that the ending left me a bit wanting. I felt like there wasn't a full resolution, and I was still left in the limbo, much like the characters. I think (or at least I hope), that was Moss's point. This overwhelming feeling brought on by the pandemic seems to be never-ending, and we're all just stuck waiting for the satisfying conclusion.
Oof. Wow. Writing this review has just left me feeling some sort of way.
Set in England’s Peak District during the first year of the pandemic, The Fell centres around a woman called Kate who breaks quarantine to embark on a walk in the hills. She leaves behind her teenage son, Matt, in the house where the pair have been isolating together and their elderly neighbour, Alice. The events that unfold are told from the point of view of all three, as well as that of an additional characters whose identity I won’t disclose here, since it would reveal some of the plot.
Sarah Moss is a writer whose books I am constantly drawn back to. She has a unique ability to hone in on the minutiae of every day life in order to make broader statements about the nature of the world we live in today. After all, what could be more current than a novel set during a pandemic that is still ongoing even as we speak. Moss perfectly captures the incessant restlessness of lockdown as her characters wade from one monotonous task to another, an atmosphere of weary confinement lingering on every page. The stream of consciousness that is characteristic of Moss’s work, proves an ideal device for the exploration of varying reactions to sudden isolation and the uncertainty of the road ahead.
In some ways it was too close to the bone for me, and probably wouldn’t have felt as such if the story had eventually progressed to a hopeful conclusion, or simply a less abrupt one. I felt that there was something missing from this commentary of our lived reality and I’m not sure that it will be possible to comprehend the full impact of the pandemic without more hindsight than would have been available at the time this novel was written. This is merely a personal preference though. I think that any pandemic novels I read will feel like a grasp in the dark for a good few years yet, but that’s the only reason why this fell a little flat for me.
Moss remains an author who reflects the myriad complexities of our lives back to us in a way that is thought-provoking and irresistibly jarring, making The Fell an imperfectly perfect representation of the times we live in.
Thank you to Netgalley and Farrar, Straus and Giroux for the ARC.
This review was also posted on Instagram via @victoriasliterarythings
Encapsulates well the claustrophobia and mental health struggles of the pandemic. The protagonist is meant to be in isolation after being identified as a close contact, but halfway through her time she cannot take being closed inand decides to go for a night walk up the Fell at night, so she will not be near others. It is a selfish decision as she leaves her son at home, her at risk neighbour is in a panic and or course rescue services are then alerted and having to attend. On the other hand, the flow of consciousness writing shows an increasingly frenetic mind
.the protagonist is not in a healthy state of mental health. This becomes worse when she falls and delirium conjures up the voice of a bird as her conscious. The book does highlight the issue of how the pandemic has affected a nation psychologically and raises the questions about whether more could have been done to protect mental health as well as physical. A short, emotive read that can ve read in one sitting and will definitely raise some discussions. As this is dealing with a real-time pandemic issue, I imagine it could generate some heated opinions, especially regarding the protagonist and her decision to leave the house - her mental health vs the risk against others. #thefell #Sarahmoss #netgalley
Such an interesting concept! I really loved the premise of this book but the writing style ultimately wasn't for me. Some passages seemed to drag on for quite a while, but I did enjoy the story overall.
Sarah Ready, Sara Goodman Confino, Sarah. E. Ladd and now Sarah Moss— this year I seem to be picking books by the author’s first name! ;)
The Fell by Sarah Moss is a much-needed look into people’s psyche as the current pandemic keeps bringing up more variants and would confine us to our homes for the rest of our lives if it could. The novel has four POVs- that of Rob, Matt, his mom Kate and their neighbour Alice. Matt and Kate are self-isolating as someone at Kate’s cafe was tested positive for COVID. Alice being a cancer patient is considered Extremely Vulnerable and cannot step outside her house. Her kind neighbours do her grocery shopping for her. One evening, aka decides that enough is enough and ventures out for a little trek, one where she wouldn’t meet— or infect— a single soul. However, she is not back after hours, and Matt and Alice seek help find her. Rob and his colleagues at the mountain rescue scour the fell for Kate.
The author has done a brilliant job in highlighting the human need for touch and the company of other people, even if extremely vulnerable. In spite of getting the need for the regulations, most people would rather die of COVID than of loneliness. There is a limit to how long we can put up with ourselves.
Some people need others but some need a bit of fresh air. Being locked up inside four walls is no fun. Kate can feel the mountain beckoning as she goes out for a little walk, and cannot stop. Just a little further, she thinks, and keeps going forward. The chapters where the mountain rescue is searching for her were really intense and kept me on the edge. It was even more nerve racking for me because just this week, a 19-year-old was rescued from a dangerous mountain after 45 hours by the Indian army. He had to stand for hours in an area tamed by wild bears and elephants, after he was injured and ran out of food and water.
A wonderful book, 4.5 stars!
Thank you NetGalley and publisher for the ARC.
The Fell by Sarah Moss is a deft and skilled book of contemporary fiction. On a dusky evening in November 2020, Kate leaves her house to go for a walk breaking the quarantine rules. Unable to bear the closeness and stillness of the house any longer she walks only to find herself injured and alone upon the moor. The chapters interchange following Kate in peril, her son bereft at her impending loss, Alice the neighbour who witnesses Kate’s departure and Rob part of the rescue mission. It is a relatable story that traces our choices, our actions, our loss and our loved ones in extreme circumstances. It is a book that you can read rapidly filled with precise prose and witty suspense. I enjoyed the novel but felt it didn’t reach the lofty, atmospheric heights of the authors previous work Ghost Wall and Summerwater. This book is for fans of contemporary suspense and fiction looking for a quick and compelling read. 3.5 Stars ✨
Then Covid came......
This gives the impression that 'one' thing happened. Seen from afar then yes it's true. But how Covid interacted with each and everyone of us at different times creates lots of different 'Covids', different stories, different angles, different size.
Each story comes with its own pains and joys, this one too. How the quiet country village life can turn into neighbours hounding you to wear your mask or keeping track of your vaccination status or when you went out and for how long. How people just making ends meet before Covid are now in really dire straights and one small blow will flatten them. How touch becomes a sought after thing, and you might even start noting on your diary when you were touched last.
An ARC gently given by author/publisher via Netgalley
This was a good book, a very quick read as well. Kate and her son Matt live in a small English village that is in a National park, their house backs onto a nature trail that leads up to a ridge. Kate is in quarantine, a close contact with a covid infected person has her off work and stuck inside with her son for two weeks. After one week she's stir crazy and decides near evening to go out for a walk on the nature trail, she won't be gone long she figures, back before anyone knows she's gone. Alice, her neighbour, sees her leave but decides not to tell anyone, the village is small and everyone would know, including the police and the fine for breaking quarantine is hefty. Matt is a gamer and is usually in front of his computer gaming away the day and night, unless he's hungry, then he ventures down to see what's for dinner and discovers his mom gone. Alice, Kate and Matt are the primary point of view of what happens, a rescue person, sent out when Matt finally tells Alice that he's worried and Alice alerts the authorities, searches for Kate. Kate has fallen and is badly injured, a broken leg for sure. The thoughts of each person around their lives, how covid has affected them, how they have arrived at the situation they are currently in, is told in separate chapters. I have not read anything by this author previously and I found this to be a very good book, one I would recommend. Thank you to #Netgalley and #Farrar, Straus and Giroux for the ARC.
This short novella is about a woman who is supposed to be quarantining for 14 days, but she has had enough of the isolation and she heads out for a hike that takes a bad turn. Very introspective as the narrative focuses on the inner thoughts of a handful of characters. It took me a little while to get used to the stream of consciousness narration, but the author accurately captured a lot of the fear and panic that occurred in the beginning of the pandemic. I received an ARC from netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Before you pick up a Sarah Moss you must clear the decks, because you will not move until you have read every last word. I have read quite a few covid related books now but this one accurately portrays the claustrophobia that was felt during lockdown. It is eerie to revisit the early days of hand washing hysteria and neighbourhood paranoia.
Thank you to the author, Farrar, Straus and Giroux and NetGalley, for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
This novella is short, but powerful. It engages with the reality of the pandemic, lockdown and the isolation that these events cause - something all of us are dealing with to varying degrees. The story shows four different perspectives: Kate – a single mother, Matt - her son, Alice - the widowed neighbor recovering from cancer, and Rob - a volunteer mountain rescuer . Kate and Matt are quarantined due to having been exposed to a COVID case, but when the claustrophobia gets the better of her, Kate decides to walk up into the deserted moors. She is spotted going by Alice, who of course is also isolating due to her health vulnerabilities. When Kate doesn't return as darkness falls, Matt alerts the authorities. Meanwhile Kate is in serious trouble after a fall, and Rob and his colleagues scramble to find her. The story is told in a bit of a meandering way, each character has a distinct voice and shares their thoughts, and yet the tension and danger of the situation come across extremely well. I'm not sure why some seem to think the message of this book is against masking, social distancing etc. - on the contrary, I found it spoke out clearly for all the measures instituted but also looked at what this cost us psychologically.
Thank you to Farrar, Straus and Giroux and NetGalley for an early copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
I have read a few COVID-centric novels in the last year, as I am not opposed to seeing how other people are choosing to depict a reality we all with was fictional. This was quick, intense, and left me thinking quite a bit about how I really have felt over the last few years.
It's late in the first year of the pandemic in England. Kate is restless after being quarantined with her son and decides to break the law and go for a walk, but she falls and thus a rescue ensues. I saw reviews saying that this was a book that promoted not wearing a mask and not quarantining and obeying various guidelines, etc, but I think that's a misreading. I think Moss is just exploring what we all went through and how there's no good way to have gone through it -- lots of people have experienced the absolute worst years of their lives. Death, darkness, exhaustion, mourning. Some people have merely been inside for a bit, maybe not even at all. She's showing that compassion exists, but we often get it wrong, misplace it, forget that it's an alright thing to feel.
During the quick read, I was often mad, annoyed, and exasperated with Kate and even the other voices we hear -- the elderly neighbor, Kate's son, the rescue volunteer who finds solace in his job, though it takes him to dark places. But I saw my own thoughts in their musings. I want to read about how other people have lived through this, and Moss delivered for me.
I am fascinated by the ways that the COVID 19 pandemic has worked its way into our art in 2022 and so I was eager to pick up The Fell. More novella than novel, Moss zeros in on the affects of being isolated from one another during the pandemic. Our main character, Kate, is in quarantine with her teenaged son, Matt, following a COVID exposure at work. Feeling suffocated by being inside, Kate leaves her house to go for a walk on the moor by herself. When she doesn't return, Matt begins to worry that she's not coming back. Their neighbor, Alice, sees Kate leave and also becomes concerned for Matt. What started as a quick escape from quarantine turns into an elaborate mountain rescue.
Despite the outward drama of the scenario Moss has created, The Fell is an interior-focused book. Each chapter alternates between the four characters: Kate, Matt, Alice, and Rob (one of the rescuers). Their stream-of-consciousness narration reveals the struggles of the pandemic, particularly when stuck at home to avoid spreading the disease. Kate's POV was masterfully done, as she struggles to survive on the moor.
This book isn't anti-lockdowns or quarantines, but it is honest about what happens to mental health when people are asked to stay home for their physical well-being. I really enjoyed being inside the heads of all of these characters as they grappled with their feelings over the course of a few hours.
My only complaint here is that the book was too short. I found myself wanting a little more from the story and the characters by the end.
It feels strange to read novels, or a novella in this case, that refer to the early days of the pandemic. Even though the pandemic is not over, the early days of wiping down groceries and staying indoors seem so long ago. This novella takes us into the minds of Kate, her son Matt, their neighbor Alice, and rescue agent Rob, after Kate goes missing after taking a walk on the fell one evening. Although the book is short, Moss captures the anxiety some of us felt at the thought of being asked to stay home indefinitely. For an introvert like myself, who didn’t find staying home to be much of a hardship, it was interesting to read about a reaction different than my own.
Thank you to Net Galley and the publisher for an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
4.5 stars rounded to 5
My second lockdown fiction which I was skeptical about, but this short novella certainly doesn’t disappoint.
In the middle of her quarantine in November 2020, Kate simply can’t take it anymore. The isolation and confinement are getting to her. Quietly slipping out, she just wants a walk in the moors.
Matt, her teenage son, notices that his mom is gone for too long and has no clue what to do, given the isolation. As he alerts his elderly neighbour Alice, they soon have the mountain rescue team looking for Kate.
The narrative alternates between Kate, Matt and Alice, instantly creating the tense and unsettling atmosphere of the raging pandemic of 2020. The prose is evocative, lyrical and spell binding, seamlessly flowing between the three of them, giving us a glimpse of their states of mind and deepest thoughts.
Moss pictures three very different perspectives of responses to the contagion, exploring how it affected them all, given their age and circumstances of life –
Kate, as a single mother is struggling make ends meet with her café job. As she gets into trouble during her walk, I loved how Moss presented her monologues with her conscience, as it begins to haunt her, reminding her of all her mistakes and regrets.
With loneliness being his only company, Matt is already edgy and when he finds that his mom is missing, his helplessness and nerves, throw him off-center.
Alice, as much as she wants to be the helpful neighbor, is anxious of contracting the illness and is caught with her own mental battles, having just survived a fatal disease.
Moss’s blend of her literary writing with the element of suspense works wonderfully and left me wanting more of the novella.
The Fell is a thought provoking read about the changing world and how even a small amount of hope, benevolence and kind-heartedness will go a long way for humanity.
Thanks NetGalley, Farrar, Straus and Giroux for the ARC!
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