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In the Falling Snow Hardcover – Deckle Edge, September 1, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Phillips (Dancing in the Dark) is a master when it comes to issues of race, immigration and identity in modern England. In his latest, protagonist Keith Gordon, the child of West Indian immigrants, is going through a mid-life crisis. Separated from his white wife, whose family cut her off for marrying him, and fielding resentment from his 17-year-old son Laurie (wrestling with the stigma of his mixed background), Keith tries to make sense of his disintegrating life-also including a career on the skids and a troubled relationship with his own father. Phillips's latest is thoughtful, personal and engrossing, detailing the struggles of second-generation immigrants, thoroughly assimilated Britons who don't "look" British. While Keith can be frustratingly passive, his personal saga is challenging and emblematic, chronicling the changing racial makeup of modern England without ever crossing into stereotypical or maudlin territory.
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“[Phillips is] an insightful and sympathetic chronicler of race, British identity, and the immigrant experience.” —The Christian Science Monitor

“[A] serious novel. . . . [Keith's father’s] discourse of ideas and anecdotes is gritty, brilliant, remarkable.” —San Francisco Chronicle

“Phillips displays his considerable writing skills. His ear for speech is acute; his eye for the cityscapes of both London and the north of England is good; his sense of the history of England in the 1960s is sure and, most significantly, he has a dramatist's talent for creating telling scenes and incidents.” —Washington Times

“Throughout Phillips’s fiction and nonfiction, he focuses on people who are caught in between places, desires, and circumstances of history. . . . [Here,] he elegantly handles a complicated time scheme, shifting smoothly between Keith’s present and memories of his past.” —World Literature Review
“Phillips has written extensively . . . about the legacy of the slave trade and the immigrant experience. . . . The hero’s dying father delivers an incandescent soliloquy.” —The New Yorker
“Caryl Phillips is an alpha-class writer, both as a phrase-maker and as an observer of human nature.” —Mail on Sunday (UK)
“Phillips’s excellent reputation is well deserved. He explores grand themes by peering expertly through the net curtains of everyday life. Intelligent, gripping, understated and affecting, this is a brilliant account of how real life can get in the way of a family’s dreams.” —Birmingham Post (UK)
“Convincing....Impressive . . . The conclusion is expertly done; the sense of loss it conjures, lasting.” —Daily Mail (UK)

"Richly reflective....[Offers] significant rewards." -The Globe and Mail (Toronto)

From the Trade Paperback edition.

This Book Is Bound with "Deckle Edge" Paper
You may have noticed that some of our books are identified as "deckle edge" in the title. Deckle edge books are bound with pages that are made to resemble handmade paper by applying a frayed texture to the edges. Deckle edge is an ornamental feature designed to set certain titles apart from books with machine-cut pages. See a larger image.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1 edition (September 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307272567
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307272560
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 6 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,689,285 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Caryl Phillips is the author of numerous works of fiction and nonfiction. His novel A Distant Shore won the Commonwealth Writers' Prize, and his other awards include the Martin Luther King Memorial Prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and lives in New York.

Customer Reviews

3.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Kate Juliff on June 7, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Yes, If you are a Caryl Phillips fan read this.

Otherwise, don't bother.

I have appreciated Phillip's novels, especially "Higher Ground" and "A Distant Shore". So I was pleased to see his latest novel, "In the Falling Snow" available in the Kindle edition.

The book has its moments, especially toward the end. But it's heavy going to get there, and had I not read Phillips' other novels, I would have given up on "In the Falling Snow" around page 50.

The novel seems to go nowhere. At times I thought it was perhaps three novels, half formed and badly combined into one disjointed piece. It is SORT of about Keith -- born in the 1960s to immigrant West Indian parents, Keith's father Earl, and Keith's step mother Brenda. Keith's ex wife, Annabelle, and Earl's ex wife, Brenda, have minor roles.

But what's it all about? I finished the book but am none the wiser. I don't want to spoil the end, so will not go into how the novel disappointedly ends. Suffice it to say, just as the novel picks up with the dying Earl's account of his last days in the West Indies and his first days in England, the novel comes to an unfinished finish.

Still for those who enjoy Phillips' writing, it is worth buying, if only for the brief glimpses into what surely must be Phillip's early life. Or that of his father's. We will probably never know.
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Format: Paperback
I read Phillip's Dancing In The Dark a few years back, and the lyricism and haunting sadness lingered in my memory when I picked up this novel. For the first few chapters, I was torn between a "you've got to be kidding me, you can do better, Phillips" and an insatiable curiosity to see if it gets better anywhere, given his immense talent.

Then it struck me what he was doing: by chronicling with great care and detail Keith's every action and word, we see the bleakness and mundane routine of his life. Every human lives his own life but not all is shared. Here, the reader enters Keith's world of cares and must-dos, reduced to the very basics of flushing the loo, crossing the street to catch the bus and so on. All is stated, nothing is implied.

This book to the uninitiated, can come across as the work of an amateur writer earnestly in love with his character, but in the deft hands of Phillips, this tone and style has intention and eventually its own reward: the last few chapters of the novel. What a treat. [SPOILER AHEAD]

Keith's father, Earl, is mostly taciturn through the novel. Towards the end, he gives a monologue that rouses the reader. His is a burst of song against the flat, grey backdrop of the UK he languishes in. Earl becomes the colourful parrot, the swaying motion of palm trees, the warmth of the sun, against the cold, rainy, tired loneliness Keith experiences. There's poetry and power in his almost-lamentation, his yearning for his home country. He steals the show, to speak in showbiz terms.

It's the one spot of colour and beauty in the novel - and all the more poignant because such beauty cannot last.
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By Honey Comb on May 21, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I cannot say that I particularly liked the character Keith in, 'In the Falling Snow.' He always seemed to be sitting on the fence especially when it came to his son Laurie and his ex wife. The story finally comes together when his estranged and dying father tells him about his life as a young man in England. A young man who left Jamaica to join his best friend, who was eventually murdered at the hands of the Teddy Boys. On his dying bed, the father Earl tells his son a story of hardship and abuse at the hands of some of the British, whose sole intention was to keep Britain white.
I got the impression that because Keith was born in England, there was something in him that said, he was not like other West Indians who had immigrated to England and had suffered, to pave the way for someone who looked like them, but wasn't necessarily one of them. There seemed to be many loose ends. What happened to Danuta, the Polish girl? Did she find another man to rob? Did the hero Keith find another position to keep up his extravagant lifestyle of Perrier water and Pouilly Fuisse wine? Did Laurie make anything of his life? Somewhere in this story, there was a disconnect. I also wonder how many lives had been taken and how many lives lost by men who were encouraged to immigrate to England to work on the buses. How many of them were too embarrassed to correspond with their families back in the Caribbean? How many of these young men and women became vagrants of British society?
This book was an eye opener and although I liked the story, especially the latter part of it, I can't say I loved it.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Harriet Klausner #1 HALL OF FAME on September 28, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Keith Gordon's parents came from the West Indies settling in England where he was born in the early 1960s. He was raised by his white stepmother and is therefore comfortable with both races. Keith married a white Annabelle, whose family excommunicated her due to her marrying him but after two decades together they have been separated for two years now.

Recently Annabelle has become increasingly worried about their seventeen year old son Laurie who will not talk to his father as if his dad is at fault for the teen being biracial. At work Keith heads the London unit of Race Equality, but the social worker is under investigation as a subordinate has accused him of harassment; not that it matters much anymore as he has begin to conclude his work is meaningless. Filled with despondency while pondering is that all there is, Keith even considers what to do about his estrangement with his West Indies' dad.

This is a super timely look at racial identification in a changing world as the EEO question of which race you belong to seems obsolete with the increasing number of bi-racial people. Keith is a terrific character who deliberates over his identity as a second generation Englishman who stands out in the snow white stereotype picture of his countrymen. His third generation offspring feels alienated and resentful even as his dad reflects who he is and is that all there is in life.

Harriet Klausner
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