When a catastrophic solar storm brings about the collapse of modern civilization, an Amish community in Pennsylvania is caught up in the devastating aftermath. Once-bright skies are now dark. Planes have plummeted to the ground. The systems of modern life have crumbled. With their stocked larders and stores of supplies, the Amish are unaffected at first. But as the English (the Amish name for all non-Amish people) become more and more desperate, they begin to invade Amish farms, taking whatever they want and unleashing unthinkable violence on the peaceable community. Seen through the diary of an Amish farmer named Jacob as he tries to protect his family and his way of life, When the English Fall examines the idea of peace in the face of deadly chaos: Should members of a nonviolent society defy their beliefs and take up arms to defend themselves? And if they don’t, can they survive? David Williams’s debut novel is a thoroughly engrossing look into the closed world of the Amish, as well as a thought-provoking examination of “civilization” and what remains if the center cannot hold.
This is a magnificent debut novel! I am so, so very happy I was approved on Netgalley to read this book! I want to give a shout out to my friend and fellow blogger, Evelina from Avalinah’s Books. She wrote such a wonderful review on this book that I just had to read it! Evelina, thank you so much for writing a review that literally made me want to pick up this book immediately! Without you I never would have even heard of it. Here‘s her review if you are interested in checking that out! I highly recommend you do! Okay, onto the review!
“They are English. They are the world. They are so busy, they have no time to see God or each other.”
-David Williams, When the English Fall
This is a dystopian novel unlike any other, as it takes the point of view of an Amish man named Jacob. The story is told through Jacob’s journal entries. This is not your typical survival dystopian story, it’s more of seeing the world through the eyes of the Amish community. When the English Fall was such a unique take on a dystopian novel that I found myself stopping mid-read to think about the way that I live my life. This book really made me think and realize that I do not appreciate the simple things in life, such as having a car, internet, or even air conditioning. I think this is a big part of why I loved this book so much. It taught me the lesson to slow down and to appreciate the small things in life. One of my favorite parts of this book was when Jacob focuses on describing the magic of a leaf that looks like it is floating in the air. It’s actually just a leaf dangling from a thread of a spider’s web. The fact that he could still find magic during the collapse of civilization just made this book such a pleasurable read. The small things in this book were just delightful additions.
If you aren’t familiar with the Amish, they are known as being a peaceable community that reside in Pennsylvania. They don’t use electricity or drive cars. Being from Pennsylvania myself, I grew up surrounded by the Amish and already had a good idea about how their communities worked. The Amish are known for being very devout in their religion and they live by the word of God. I loved the way this book gave an in-depth view of how the Amish went about their daily lives and their daily customs. Even with being familiar with the Amish community, I still learned a lot about them that I didn’t know.
“Sadie turned to us, and her eyes were huge and wet with tears. ‘The English Fall,’ she said. And then she went inside, away from the light that filled the sky over the darkened Earth.”
-David Williams, When the English Fall
The whole purpose of this book being written in the eyes of an Amish man was to get a different point of view on how the Amish would survive in a dystopian world. In this novel, the Amish were not heavily affected by the solar storm that wiped out all the electricity of the world since the Amish do not rely on electricity to live. As the days went on and things got worse for the English (Amish name for non-Amish people), they started borrowing their food to feed the big cities since the Amish were known as being farmers and making all their own food. Once food started running out, this is when the Amish became affected by the after-affects of the storm. People started leaving the cities and coming across the Amish farms. The Amish are known for being pacifists and when the English came and threatened them with guns, this is when the Amish began to face a dilemma; stick to their peaceable ways or defend what’s theirs.
This was all-around a book that led to introspection of oneself and how we, the English, live in a society riddled with technology and take for granted the life we have. I highly, highly recommend this book to everyone. It’s a great eye-opener to see the world through another’s eyes. 5 out of 5 stars!
Thank you to Netgalley, the publisher, and David Williams for an advanced copy of this book in return for an honest review.