Nigel Featherstone’s Fall On Me is the first of three novellas published by Blemish Books in 2011/2012, and it’s an ideal example of the novella form and what differentiates it from longer novels. From the first few pages, Featherstone takes the reader inside the quotidian routine of Lou Bard, a thirty-eight-year-old café owner and single father; he wakes, “as he has done for as long as he can remember […] alone at dawn”, and as he showers and reflects on everything from his middle-aged body to the act of shaving to his son Luke and to the newly-finished renovations on his shop, we find that we’ve slipped easily into his life and mind, gleaning much about both his present and past from the smallest of details, with questions raised that pique curiosity and keep the pages turning. There are hints at past tragedy in Lou’s emotional state, his closeness with Luke, the absence of Luke’s mother (and the presence of Anna Denham, “their current housemate”). The short first chapter finishes with Lou reading a note left by Luke, and the ending of the note strikes at the beating heart of this carefully-scoped novella-length story:
PS: Be brave, because that’s what I have been, more brave than I’ve been before.
By carefully-scoped, I mean that it somehow seems clear from this moment that this will be a story not-quite-broad-enough for a novel but much-too-much for a short story, and that the family life and relationship between Lou and his son Luke will form the central arc, even as external events and social pressures act upon them to force change.