I've read three novels over the last week, all good, all to be recommended, all much enjoyed. Despite their finer points, however, one is overwrought, another is over-long, and both those two address the issues at their hearts uncomfortably earnestly and with an ill-fitting 21st. century sensibility, reflecting on their period characters a contemporary outlook rather than views in keeping with their time.
The third book falls into none of these traps. Juliet West's Before the Fall is a highly accomplished debut with that integrity - sense of wholeness - which is so often lacking in novels of all genres and at all points on the literary scale. Based - tragically - on actual events, it is in essence a love story set in London's East End during the First World War, but it stands out for the quality of its writing, and for the way in which it depicts the moral spectrum of its period rather than ours. While my hand was twitching for the virtual editorial pencil where the other books were concerned, of this one I wouldn't change a word.