CHATTO & WINDUS £12.99, Order for £11.69 from the Independent Bookshop: 08430 600 030

The Opposite of Falling, By Jennie Rooney

Writing as sharp as a new pin

There is something to be written about novelists who suppress their early work. Although Ivy Compton-Burnett, Graham Greene and Sebastian Faulks have done so, it is unimaginable that Jennie Rooney would disown her first novel, Inside the Whale.

That adroit, observant tale of love rediscovered across the generations made it immediately clear that here was a natural novelist who combined the elegantly outlandish with an episodic structure.

As did that other lawyer turned novelist, Hilary Mantel, Rooney looks set to take a different approach every time. Her second novel takes place in the later 19th century. Again she switches between the point-of-view of several narrators while not shying from interior monologue.

Spinster Ursula Bridgewater has inherited money but her fiancé has taken up with another woman. Across the Atlantic, at Niagara Falls, Toby O'Hara lost his mother in one of his father's early experiments in flight, something which has not curtailed his own endeavours to defy gravity, as he seeks solace with a taste for Thomas Cook's early forays into organised travel. Ursula makes bold to visit America, and takes with her as a companion Sally, an orphan who has spent her early years in a nunnery. If these are damaged lives, there is nothing fragmentary about Rooney's development of the way in which their paths overlap.

To say any more would be unfair. Briskly told, Rooney's novel is not burdened by excessive detail. As effortlessly as Proust or Forster, she incorporates unexpected aperçus. Wisdom is lightly borne. At every turn there are such remarks as "she knew it was a sign of madness to be able to draw a perfect circle". As for Ursula's collapsed engagement, she had thought that loneliness "would have a sharp, new-pin quality to it. She found that, in reality, loneliness was not much more than a muffling of the senses. It had nothing of the new pin about it. It did not sparkle or break the skin. It was just a grey, mouth-dry silence, and it bored her." No word here is outré, but they combine in such a way that "mouth-dry silence" is very much a linguistic new pin.

It will be more than interesting to see whether Rooney produces different narrative structures, even favouring a loose, baggy monster. In the meantime, her work should inspire a canny producer to ask her to write a screenplay.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

    Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

    Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
    Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

    Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

    When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
    5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

    In grandfather's footsteps

    5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
    Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

    Martha Stewart has flying robot

    The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
    Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

    Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

    Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
    A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

    A tale of two presidents

    George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

    The dining car makes a comeback

    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
    Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

    Gallery rage

    How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

    Eye on the prize

    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
    Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

    Women's rugby

    Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
    Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

    How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

    As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
    We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

    We will remember them

    Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
    Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
    Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

    Acting in video games gets a makeover

    David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices