The Opposite of Falling

Written by Jennie Rooney
Review by Sarah Cuthbertson

In 1862, Ursula Bridgewater of Liverpool is jilted without explanation by her fiancé. Independent of mind, means and now of marriage ties, she shrugs off her misfortune and takes herself away on some of the newfangled tours of Britain and Europe organised by Mr Thomas Cook. In another part of Liverpool, illegitimate Sally Walker is growing up in the bleak, loveless atmosphere of a Catholic orphanage. Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, young Toby O’Hara, having inherited his late father’s obsession with flying machines, is busy trying to build one, financing his project by giving balloon rides over Niagara Falls. So it is that in 1872, when Ursula decides to embark on Mr Cook’s latest venture, a tour to the USA, all three come together and the story takes off, so to speak.

Although (with one exception) nothing heart-stopping happens until the end, we’re treated, as in all good novels, to the pleasure of following characters who grow and blossom as their tale unfolds, surprising themselves as well as us with what they learn from each other’s lives. This is a wise and delightful read enriched by Jennie Rooney’s gift for character, language and observation, and leavened with a dose of quirky humour that manages to be both light and sharp.