Title: All Fall Down
Author: Sally Nicholls
Genre: YA Historical
Summary (from Goodreads)
A deadly contagion races through England…
Isabel and her family have nowhere to run from a disease that has killed half of Europe. When the world she knows and loves ends forever, her only weapon is courage.
The Black Death of 1349 was the deadliest plague in human history. All Fall Down is a powerful and inspiring story of survival in the face of real life horror.
When I was a kid, I had a real obsession with the Plague. Morbid, I know, but I had this book that was all about diseases – in the fun, quirky illustrations, cartoony sort of way. Despite the cartoons though, it used to scare the hell out of me. Every time I felt even slightly ill I managed to convince myself I was going to die of the plague. And this was before you could Google your symptoms.
There’s just something really scary about the thought of a plague that could kill more than half the population of Europe. It’s a fear that has inspired a whole horde of modern preoccupations, from the Zombie apocalypse to superflu pandemics. All Fall Down plays on that fear, bringing it to life through Isabel, who has the misfortune to be stuck in the middle of Black Death’s worst outbreak in history.
Isabel is not a particularly likeable character. She’s a coward, equally selfish and fearful most of the time. But in the context of the story, it works. She’s not got a massive quest to go on, requiring bravery and heart. She’s stuck in her village while all her friends and family die around her, and her reactions to this are realistic, leaving you questioning how you would behave should you find yourself in that situation. Exactly the same, I would imagine.
It’s a claustrophobic little tale, made worse by the fact that we now know why the plague spread, but the ignorance of people at the time meant they endangered themselves unknowingly. The story also brings to light how the absolute dregs of society acted – charging for digging graves and stealing from the homes of the dead. The dark side of human nature is illuminated, and it’s about as pretty as a Black Death buboe.
A scary little story that fans of the grizzlier side of historical fiction will enjoy. The period is brought scarily to life.