1990s Other Prizes

Fall on Your Knees – Ann-Marie MacDonald

Winner of the 1997 Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best First Book, Shortlisted for the 1997 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, Shortlisted for the 1996 Giller Prize

Fall on Your Knees is a long, complex story about 4 sisters living on Cape Breton Island in Canada. The sisters’ parents regret their marriage, as Materia was just a child when she married James. They are clearly mis-matched and Materia struggles to cope with being removed from her Lebanese family. The book begins in 1898 and follows the family as they deal with secrets, betrayal and tragedy.

It took me a long time to read this 560 page epic, but it was worth the effort. I loved the sisters and the complex relationships between them. All the characters were well developed, flawed and steeped with intrigue. I admit that I became confused on several occasions and had to re-read sections in order to understand what was happening. This was due to the fact that the book switched between several narrators and jumped forward and back in time, with no indication of who I was now reading about. I think that this confusion was key to the plot though – not knowing who was speaking at several points helped to maintain the secrets and meant the reader had a more interesting mystery to solve.

The atmosphere of the book was excellent. It had the feel of a Gothic novel, but the Canadian setting made it different from anything I’ve read before. The writing was of a very high standard, so I’m not surprised that it received so much recognition from the world’s book awards.

I must warn you that this book deals with some difficult subject matters: paedophilia, incest and rape are all present in this book along with discussions on religion and war. I thought it was all handled sensitively though, showing the shocking truth about what occurs in society, without sensationalising it.

Fall on Your Knees had me gripped throughout. I am very impressed with Ann-Marie MacDonald’s writing and will try to get hold of all her other books as soon as possible.

Highly recommended to anyone with the patience to understand what is happening!


Have you read anything by Ann-Marie MacDonald?

Which is your favourite?

Claire: Thank you for lending me your copy of this book!