In the Fall They Leave: A Novel of the First World War (Paperback)
After failing at a prestigious music Académie, nineteen-year-old Marie-Thérèse is finally meeting with success at a Brussels nursing school. But in August 1914, just as her third and final year begins, German armies invade Belgium, swiftly overcome the Allies, and press on toward France, leaving behind an occupying force. This upends everything in Brussels and in Marie-Thérèse’s world. There are reports of ongoing brutalities which fuel burgeoning resentment on the part of the citizenry. Although the occupiers must be treated with respect, nothing prevents citizens from venting their anger on fellow citizens of German descent, including Marie-Thérèse’s family. At the clinic and nursing school, a newly installed director orders students and staff to spy on one another. In this perilous environment, the matron of the school—a character based on the historical Edith Cavell—makes a fateful decision. Soon, so does Marie-Thérèse. Both have far-reaching consequences. In the Fall They Leave is a wartime story of moral courage, resilience, and endurance.
About the Author
Joanna Higgins is a National Endowment for the Arts recipient whose work has been included in The Best American Short Stories series. Her first novel, A Soldier's Book, was a Finalist for the Michael Shaara Award for Excellence in Civil War Fiction. In the Fall They Leave is her fourth historical novel. She and her husband live in upstate New York and have two grown children.
“To the names of Irène Némirowsky and Pat Barker, add that of Joanna Higgins: women who write about war from the point of view of civilians on the home front and who dramatize the complex and morally fraught interactions between ordinary people and their country’s occupiers. The country is Belgium, the war is World War I, and the ordinary person is a nurse, Marie-Thérèse Hulbert, who in the course of the novel becomes quite extraordinary. Perhaps this splendid novel’s most impressive feature is the way it combines an epic sweep with the intimacy of Marie-Thérèse’s inner life. Readers will cheer her on, warn her of dangers, and repeatedly ask themselves, ‘What would I have done’?” —John Vernon, author of The Last Canyon, The Book of Reasons, La Salle, and other works of prose and poetry
“On the face of it, Joanna Higgins’ newest book is a story about World War I. But like all great novels, one must ask what is it not about? It’s about war, but also about friendship and betrayal and art and nation-building. The writing, moment by moment, is so exquisite and precise it practically makes the reader hold one’s breath. The novel is fast-paced but never hurried. Among Higgins’ prized works, this may well be her masterpiece.” —Liz Rosenberg, author of Beauty and Attention, The Moonlight Palace, and numerous children’s books as well as other works of prose and poetry
“The writing is superb. Poetic. Elegant. The character renderings are sublime and lively. There’s a fusion of word and image and sight and sound and thought. It’s filmic and alive.” —Jerry Mirskin, author of Picture a Gate Hanging Open and Let that Gate Be the Sun and other collections of poetry
“This gripping, character-centered novel gives readers insight into the humanity of some, despite danger and costs, in contrast to the brutality of WWI. It reminds us that not all heroes are found on the battlefield.” —Sara-Jo Lupo Sites, MLS, Head of Youth Services, G.F. Johnson Memorial Library, Endicott, New York
“In her novel In the Fall They Leave, Joanna Higgins captures the trepidation, fear of failure, and doubt that haunt every apprentice of nursing. Equally as well, she describes the hope-filled faith, courage, and dedication that guide aspiring nurses on their journey.” —Donna Tomasulo West, PhD, RN, Clinical Assistant Professor, Decker College of Nursing, Binghamton University