Review by Donna Mitchell
Eden Falls (2013) is the third novel written by acclaimed author Jane Sanderson. It follows the success of her other period fictions, Netherwood (2011) and Ravenscliffe (2012), and is set at the beginning of the twentieth century. The story is divided between the struggles and secrets of Silas Whittam – an English millionaire and aspiring hotelier who has moved to the Jamaican tropics to create a new life and to begin a new business venture – and the lives of the upper echelon back in the bustling metropolis of London city as they try to disguise on going marital and political troubles in order to maintain their good reputation.
Because Eden Falls can be read as a standalone novel within the series, it includes a brief foreword for readers who are not familiar with the events of Netherwood and Ravenscliffe, as well as a comprehensive chart of the story’s principal characters. This proves to be a useful referencing tool as the book is composed of many different intersecting stories from both sides of the Atlantic. Sanderson already enjoys a good name for producing well-researched fiction, and Eden Falls is yet another example of her ability to create old worlds that encompass a close attention to historical detail. Inherent in the narrative, she deals with many delicate social issues from this time, such as concerns relating to national identity and racism among the English immigrants and the native Jamaicans, as well as the emerging suffragette movement in Britain and scandalous new attitudes to the institutions of marriage and family. Readers of the series will be glad to find out how the latest developments of the family saga affect the lives of Eve, Anna and co., and to follow how their latest journeys take them deep into the world of politics and social unrest. Allusions to the forthcoming events of World War I also suggest that Sanderson has set up the foundation for a fourth instalment.
As previously mentioned, the story can be enjoyed as a separate text to the others in the series. However, due to the complex nature of the overlapping narrative structure and the many different characters, I would recommend that the previous books are read beforehand in order to gain a proper understanding of the players and their current circumstances. Sanderson uses a wonderful cast of old and new characters to create contrasting worlds within the same novel and to tell the tales of disorder among the rich and poor alike. Downtown Abbey fanatics are sure to enjoy this correspondingly epic tale of period fiction. And on a final note, book nerds (like me) will most certainly appreciate the inclusion of a detailed bibliography as well as a Q & A with the author, which discusses both her research methods for the novel’s setting and the various social issues that arise due to contrasts between today’s society and that of the novel.