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Falling Short Reader Reviews

Falling Short

Val Rowe

A refreshingly unique style and compelling storyline makes this an excellent read.

Frances' teaching career becomes a challenge when her mother's dementia, together with her ongoing questioning over her father's disappearance when she was only 5 years old, is augmented by the apparent breakdown of her relationship with her friend and colleague, Jackson. As she discovers more about her family history, she determines to solve the mystery of her missing father whatever the consequences.
I struggled a little with the opening chapters of 'Falling Short', despite reading the blurb and deciding that the plot and school setting would make this a perfect choice. I was unsure of who the characters were and found the style difficult to get into. However, having persevered, the novel completely drew me in and I read the rest of it in two sittings.
I especially enjoyed the way in which the relationships between the characters developed and Lex Coulton's handling of Frances' emotional issues and her decision making. Having been a teacher myself, I found that her management of the storyline in the school setting was natural and realistic.
Having initially found the author's written style rather demanding, I learnt to love it and felt that it matched the pace and pathos of the plot really well.
From chapter 18 onwards woe betide anyone or anything who/which tried to distract me as I was completely hooked on Frances' plight and longing to discover the outcome.
An irresistible read from an author whose future works I am looking forward to.

Catherine Bryce

A really outstanding book, a must-read!!

This book tells the story of a young single 39 year old lady, Frances Pilgrim, who is dealing with a cross roads in her life, her love-life, her career, her social life but more importantly dealing with her mum, Frances who has dementia. Eventually she meets a friend, Jackson, who is a 59 year old teacher like herself, who is also living in London.

Their relationship evolves slowly as initially the couple were not too keen on each other and Lex Coulter writes in such a manner that the reader will enjoy a good story with an excellent narrative while the two central characters, Pilgrim and Jackson try to sort out their relationship and their problems. They have their ups and downs like any other couple but the author writes in such a manner that the reader feels included in the story. In parts of the book I was howling with laughter and I felt that the book has a good up-lift feeling to it.

A book to cover many genres and the reader wont be disappointed


Not a bad book, worth a read

Not a bad read, however, personally I thought there was something missing but can’t quite work out what. I found it a bit difficult to follow as while reading the story in present tense it suddenly jumped back into the different characters pasts which I found confusing at times.

I know a few people who would enjoy this book so will be recommending it to them but wasn’t “my cup of tea” as they say.

Sharon Wood

Enjoyable contemporary fiction but a little predictable

Frances Pilgrim is 39, a teacher and only child with a widowed mother, who is worryingly showing increasing signs of dementia. Single, and with a poor success rate in the love stakes, Frances drinks too much and her life isn’t what she, or indeed her somewhat critical mother, had envisaged. Her best friend is Jackson, an older colleague at school, but they have fallen out too and Frances is feeling very alone, with only her dog, Dog, for company. News of her dead father upsets her chaotic world even further and Frances sets off to Yorkshire to find out the truth of his death for herself.

The story was pretty simple really - an updated for the merlot generation Bridget Jones “will they won’t they?” with few surprises. I didn’t not enjoy it, but I couldn’t help feeling the book title “Falling Short” was quite apt and it didn’t quite deliver. It was saved somewhat by the author’s good writing, and it was at times amusing, but it was pretty predictable and I was irritated by many of the bracketed asides, some from the Tempest and some not, and what their relevance was. I also felt some of the flashbacks were confusing and references to Jackson’s previous life in South Africa with italicised South African words and absolutely no explanation or translation employed the same annoying pompous device other writers use when they liberally sprinkle in French or Latin phrases.

Overall, Lex Coulter is obviously a clever and accomplished writer and I think this book will be enjoyed by fans of contemporary fiction.

Clare Wilkins

A well-observed, character-driven read with a startling secret at its heart. Plenty for fans of contemporary fiction to enjoy.

Frances Pilgrim’s life is a mess. Hungover and jaded, she is struggling to balance her job as a teacher, her ailing mother and an increasingly chaotic love-life. Considered a car-crash at work she relies on the support of her fellow teacher Jackson but even that relationship has been complicated by a messy, drunken evening that neither of them can talk about. As Frances stumbles from one dire situation to another a startling secret is revealed and her world implodes. Frances is an infuriating character – disorganised, crass, juvenile – and hard to like or sympathise with at the start. She is redeemed by the fact that you sense she is trying to do the right thing but simply cannot organise herself enough to do it. I loved Jackson and his detached insouciance to his job – he could have come across as superior but his affection for Frances and the fact his life had also taken a wrong turn helped flesh out his character. Supporting characters such as Rhidian, Jean and Silv are also given enough to do to make them interesting. Although not much happens for a lot of the book it is still intriguing enough to draw the reader in. There were some oddities – why is her dog called, Dog? And how is it that someone so disorganised and with so little regard for home-life even has a dog? There were also a lot of unresolved issues at the end. Despite all this I still enjoyed the book and think it will appeal to plenty of contemporary fiction fans. Anyone who enjoyed Elizabeth Day’s The Party or some of the recent Richard and Judy Book Club titles should find this a satisfying read.

Isobel Finbow

A very companionable book which intriguing multi layered characters. A book you can easily romp through or ponder and dissect.

A very companionable book which intriguing multi layered characters. A book you can easily romp through or ponder and dissect.

The layout of the book is refreshing with plenty of white space and shorty pithy chapters. You can empathise with both of the key characters. Lex Coulton's style of writing is brilliant using limited words to create sparkling observation of the human character highlighting the flaws in all of us.

A book I would revisit as I am sure more would be gleaned on a second read. I ready it quickly as I was swept along with the dialogue.

Edel Waugh

I loved it. I recommend this to all, keep tissues close at hand!

This story is set around woman called Frances Pilgrim, Pilgrim to her friends. She is a teacher, loyal friend and loving daughter to her mother who has the beginning of Alzheimer’s and now needs Frances more then ever, especially since her father disappeared when she was a child and Frances is one of the few people her mother counts on. I really enjoyed the story, Frances is just a regular woman with regular problems, but she is getting pulled in all these different directions with relationships, family, work and then a big old family mystery. The story is a gently paced one until about half way until Frances’s life reaches a type of turning point and things can’t be the same after that. I really enjoyed it, Jackson was my favourite character, he was a real night in shining armour and I loved that. I recommend this to all, keep tissues close at hand!

Paul Garland

Lex Coulton leads us through a moving novel where Frances, Dog and Jackson try to find their place in each other's life, whilst they suffer from misunderstandings and mistakes.

This book is a story of two teachers, Frances and Jackson, both with a history of poor relationships and who even manage to damage their own relationship. The story follows a well-used plot of two people who dislike each other before falling head over heels for each other but don’t seem to realise it. The interaction between them and their head of department was amusing but teachers would probably appreciate the humour more than myself.
Frances seems to stumble through her life from one situation to another until her life is turned upside down by a startling discovery. She is an infuriating character and hard to sympathise with, sometimes I wanted to give her a good slap!
Frances’ treatment of her dementia suffering mother is gentle and with empathy but still shows what a wicked disease dementia is for the sufferer and their family. An odd point was that someone as disorganised as Frances had a pet dog, named Dog, a lovable character who adds a light aside.
I read this book whilst on holiday and found it a very easy and mostly enjoyable read just right for the occasion. I couldn’t fault the quality of the writing but the flashbacks annoyed me a little as it wasn’t always clear who was having the flashback.
There were plenty of light-hearted moments which broke it up, otherwise it could have been a little gloomy. I’m glad I read this book and I'm certain there are other readers who will enjoy it.

Ann Quintilla

This book was such a satisfying read. It has been beautifully written and the portraits of the characters slowly reveals all their hidden depths. Highly recommended.

This book draws you in from the first lines. We have all been in the same situation as Frances - taking the wrong turning - unable to find our way. And poor suffering Dog just sighs.

I felt immediate empathy with Frances, a teacher with a disastrous love life and with a mystery about her father whom she has been told, by her mother, drowned at sea. But her mother won't talk about him. Clearly Frances has grown up feeling unloved by her hypercritical mother and deserted by her father.

From her mother's bizarre behavior it is clear she has dementia and one day she begs Frances to find Martin Pilgrim, Frances's father.

The only constant in her life is Jackson, a fellow teacher, with whom she has had a disastrous sexual encounter. Despite her actions it is plain she loves him. It is also clear that he loves her. Interestingly they both have a pet. Frances has Dog and Jackson has a cat 'Callaghan'.

Then her 'second mother', Jean, reveals a secret and an address. Frances sets out to find her father.

What I liked so much about this book was the way characters were revealed, not by blunt descriptions but by subtle 'showings'. If you never understood the difference between 'showing' and 'telling' after reading this book it will become so obvious.

This book was such a satisfying read. It has been beautifully written and the portraits of the characters slowly reveals all their hidden depths. Highly recommended.

Book Information

ISBN: 9781473669581
Publication date: 14th June 2018
Author: Lex Coulton
Publisher: John Murray Publishers Ltd an imprint of Hodder & Stoughton General Division
Format: Hardback
Pagination: 304 pages
Genres: Reader Reviewed Books, Debuts of the Month, eBook Favourites, Humour, Literary Fiction,
Categories: Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945),