book review: The Art of Falling by Danielle McLaughlin

THE ART OF FALLING by Danielle McLaughlin
Random House, 2021

I started out loving this but it did eventually start to fall in my estimation. I adored McLaughlin’s writing: it’s clear-eyed and pacy and this is, on the whole, a fairly enjoyable read. I’m also a sucker for anything having to do with art or art history or museums, so I loved the plot thread involving a woman turning up out of nowhere and claiming to have been responsible for a sculpture supposed to have been created by the late, famous artist Robert Locke. 

Where I felt this novel fell short of its potential was in its domestic storyline: it follows art historian Nessa’s failing marriage (her husband has recently cheated on her and they’re trying to get past it for the sake of their teenage daughter), and it also introduces a figure from Nessa’s past who holds a secret about her. For one thing, the two threads (Nessa’s work at the museum and her home life) don’t dovetail in a way that I find satisfying or realistic (Luke’s hyperfixation on the statue was something I found almost absurd in how it was so transparently shoehorned in there). And for another thing, the secret about Nessa’s past revealed something that shone rather a different light on her husband’s cheating, which I felt could have added so much depth and complexity to that dynamic but which instead ended up feeling rather underexplored. 

On the whole this wasn’t bad but I also don’t think it quite showcases what Danielle McLaughlin is capable of.

Thank you to Netgalley for the advanced copy provided in exchange for an honest review.

8 thoughts on “book review: The Art of Falling by Danielle McLaughlin

    • “Too bogged down in plot” is the perfect way to express what I was trying to say!! But yes I totally agree, and I’d love to read more from her.


  1. I’m afraid I liked this even less than you did (though I agree that McLaughlin writes good prose)! Nessa is the centre of all these disparate threads but I felt like she was barely characterised at all. There seemed to be so much redundant narration, the plots other than the artist thread were cliched, and Nessa’s teenage daughter was horribly stereotypical.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I was looking through everything I’ve read this year and realized I haven’t given a single thing a rating lower than 3 stars–am I simply not in the mood to dislike books at the minute?? I don’t know what’s going on.

      But yes, agreed completely, Nessa was too thinly drawn for her role in the story and that’s definitely what I was getting at with my complaint about her “past secret” being too inconsequential: I thought that was the big, obvious opportunity to give her more interiority but it all kind of fell flat.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ha, to be fair I rated this three stars as well, I don’t tend to use two stars unless a book makes me really angry, and one star is reserved for books that are actively offensive/harmful!


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