Fall Girl by Toni Jordan

September 11, 2012 Leave a comment Go to comments

Fall Girl by Toni Jordan 2010 Not available in French.

I heard about Fall Girl on Lisa’s blog a while ago and I’m always grateful when someone discovers good quality light and entertaining books. I like to have some on the shelves whenever I want distraction. And didn’t I need distraction after reading Bord de Mer by Véronique Olmi!  Frequent readers of this blog will notice that I’m terribly late to write this billet as I’ve read the book back in mid-August. In a way it’s an interesting situation since it’s a light book and it shows how much of the book stayed with me.

Della is a member of a family of con artists. The whole family is in the conning business. Her father, her brothers, her uncle, aunt and cousins all work together as a team. When the book opens, she’s all dressed up to her new assignment. This time, billionaire Daniel Metcalf is her prey; his foundation grants money to scientist to carrying on researches. He doesn’t mind investing is crazy projects. So Della now needs to look and sound like skilled scientist to persuade him to give her money to prove there still are Tasmanian tigers in Australia and more precisely in the Wilsons Promontory National Park near Melbourne. She decided this scheme after reading an article about him and his remembrance of seeing a Tasmanian tiger as a child. The problem is that Tasmanian tigers are thought extinct since the 20thC…

Daniel asks to meet her at her office at the university she’s supposed to teach at. She can’t refuse and the organization of the fake office is a funny read. After that, Daniel asks to participate to the researches in the park. The whole escapade is organized in haste and starts quite well but Della thinks something is off, that Daniel looks suspicious. She wonders if he’s lying to her. And the reader wonders who’s conning who.

It’s an entertaining book, seeing all the details of the schemes and the lengths Della and her family are willing to go to get money is really funny. Della’s family put a lot of work into it, much more than they would if they earned money with a regular job. Their whole life is shadowy, made of flights, erasing traces not to be caught. Della never went to school to be as little noticeable as possible. They live in a closed circle, only trusting another family. They sort of live in a parallel world just for the thrill of the cases, the supposedly freedom linked to that bohemian situation.

But Della is at a turning point: does she want to keep on doing this “job” as it is the only occupation she knows? Doesn’t she long for a “normal” life? What used to be glamorous doesn’t seem that much fun these days and the money isn’t flowing into the house. With new technologies, it becomes more and more difficult to set up people as it is easier for them to check references and stories. We follow how her job goes on and also share her doubts about her life.

It seems to me that Toni Jordan had a lot of fun writing this story and describing this strange family living in a house in Cumberland Street which is full of hides, gadgets and secret way-outs. It’s a house which enchants children (Aren’t all children attracted to secret passages?) but doesn’t appeal that much to grown-ups who see it under the cold light of adulthood. The passages only mean that the inhabitants of the house need a quick way to escape and avoid prision. She also researched con artists before writing this book. It’s a life I can’t understand as I’m too honest and lazy to see the draw. For me, telling the truth remains the easiest way, at least you don’t have to keep track of all you’ve invented to remain consistent. (Like Seymour in Elliot Allagash, by the way). It’s fun to read in a book though.

PS: Lisa also interviewed Toni Jordan and you can read her post here.

My edition is a UK one and the cover is appalling, again. The flowery wall-paper behind the picture of that girl is ugly.

  1. September 12, 2012 at 2:06 am

    Hi Emma, I’m so glad you like it too! And yes, ghastly cover, it doesn’t fit the story at all, not least because the girl is too young.

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    • September 12, 2012 at 10:35 pm

      I’m curious about that park near Melbourne now. Have you been there?

      Too bad for that cover, really.

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      • September 14, 2012 at 1:18 am

        Wilson’s Promontory (known affectionately as The Prom) is a huge wilderness national park on the peninsula that forms the southernmost part of the Australian mainland, about 200 km from Melbourne. It’s rugged and beautiful and no place for a girl in high heels. There are lovely snippets of it on the video here http://www.promcountry.com.au/
        BTW Toni has a new book out, Sue at Whispering Gums has reviewed it, see http://wp.me/pvQq3-4N5 (and I’ll be chairing a panel at the Stonnington Festival in November with Toni as one of the authors!)

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        • September 15, 2012 at 7:31 pm

          Thanks Lisa. Now I really wish I could take a trip to Australia. I need to wait for my children to grow up though.

          I’ll have a look at Whisperinggums’s post, thanks for the tip.

          You’re friends with Toni Jordan, aren’t you? Well, tell her I enjoyed her books and that I say Hi from France.

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          • September 16, 2012 at 1:51 am

            I’ll do that. Emma, I know she’ll be pleased:)

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            • September 16, 2012 at 2:26 am

              PS I’ve just discovered this blog about OzLit, written in French from here in Melbourne, see http://lekoalalit.wordpress.com/about/ – I love it (a) because it’s interesting and (b) it helps me to keep up my French!

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              • September 16, 2012 at 3:40 pm

                Thanks Lisa, I looked at this blog, it’s a good thing to promote Australian literature in France.
                For your French, there are lit blogs in French in my blogroll. I recommend Les Livres de George.

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  2. September 12, 2012 at 4:56 am

    I read her first book, Addition, which I quite liked. I’m glad you found this a refreshing read: we sometimes need those! I agree about the cover. It’s rather hideous & the “disguise” elements are so cliched.

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    • September 12, 2012 at 10:37 pm

      I enjoyed Addition too. This one is different but entertaining.
      The glasses on the cover are good beause it’s an element of the story. But for the rest, Lisa is right, the girl is too young and looks like a runaway model.

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  3. September 12, 2012 at 9:36 am

    This sounds very entertaining and I’m sure I’d enjoy it. I’m glad you reviewed it as seeing it in a shop – with that cover – I wouldn’t have picked it up.

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    • September 12, 2012 at 10:38 pm

      I think you’d like it. Quite a read for a rainy Sunday afternoon. It’s like watching an entertaining movie.

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  4. September 12, 2012 at 6:27 pm

    I just watched a film about a man who is sent to track the ‘last’ Tasmanian tiger. Sounds too romancey for me. Am I right?

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    • September 12, 2012 at 10:45 pm

      sounds like the Tasmanian tiger is the Australian Nessie.
      Don’t read this, I don’t this you’d like it.

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  5. September 13, 2012 at 12:49 pm

    It does sound rather fun, if probably to romancey for me too. How was that film Guy? I was curious about it.

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    • September 13, 2012 at 8:26 pm

      I don’t think you’d like it.
      How is the Hungarian literature month going? I saw your tweet, Ana Edes was tremendous if I understand you well.

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      • September 18, 2012 at 11:42 am

        Slowly but well. Anna Edes was great. Oliver VII is tremendous. The Grudy short stories are a lot of fun. So, not so quick but so far good books which is the key thing.

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        • September 18, 2012 at 8:33 pm

          Great reviews to come! I’m glad your choice proved good.

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    • September 15, 2012 at 1:11 am

      I think the film was worth watching–although the ending was a downer & a disappointment. The main character, the hunter, wasn’t particularly nice although he became a bit more sympathetic-emphasis on ‘bit.’

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      • September 19, 2012 at 6:22 pm

        I should add, Max, that The Hunter has all that holiness of the hunter thing going on–something I find absurd, but in spite of its faults, the film was worth watching.

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  6. September 13, 2012 at 12:50 pm

    Oh, and that is a terrible cover.

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    • September 13, 2012 at 8:29 pm

      There’s a terrible unanimity about this cover. It’s obviously aimed at women and you’d swear the publisher thinks British women are brainless.

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  7. Brian Joseph
    September 14, 2012 at 12:40 am

    This sounds like a fun book. I share in the fascination that many people have with con artists. Of course I agree that it would not be a life for me, but that is true of many fictional characters and lifestyles that I find to be interesting.

    You raise a good point about some being too lazy for this. At least in fictional accounts of these folks, an enormous amount of work goes into the crime. The old saying that “If these people just put this much work into honest pursuits…” rings true. I do think that is part of the mythology behind con artists. Much of their motivation is in the thrill of it all.

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    • September 15, 2012 at 8:44 pm

      It’s fun but I’m not sure it’s deep enough to meet your standards.

      If things happened the way Toni Jordan described them, then yes, it was a huge amount of work. In this book, the father fancies himself as free because he’s not following society’s rules. But his rules are as restricting as the common ones he rejects. And it has impacts on his children. That’s something I always think about. It’s fine to have opinions or convictions and stick to them but if your choices make of your children outcasts, then there’s damage. It’s easier to stand against the mainstream when it’s your choice and when you’re old and strong enough to handle it.

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    • September 15, 2012 at 7:21 pm

      Awful cover, I don’t see how it’s related to the book. Same thing for the German title, btw.

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  8. September 18, 2012 at 8:27 am

    I am an adult but that house still sounds fun to me. Guess I never grew up. Book sounds like fun too

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    • September 18, 2012 at 8:31 pm

      I have to confess I’d love to visit such a house too.

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