The Fell

Sarah Moss

The Fell
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The Fell

Sarah Moss

At dusk on a November evening in 2020 a woman slips out of her garden gate and turns up the hill. Kate is in the middle of a two week quarantine period, but she just can’t take it anymore - the closeness of the air in her small house, the confinement. And anyway, the moor will be deserted at this time. Nobody need ever know.

But Kate’s neighbour Alice sees her leaving and Matt, Kate’s son, soon realizes she’s missing. And Kate, who planned only a quick solitary walk - a breath of open air - falls and badly injures herself. What began as a furtive walk has turned into a mountain rescue operation …

Unbearably suspenseful, witty and wise, The Fell asks probing questions about the place the world has become since March 2020, and the place it was before. Sarah Moss’s novel is a story about compassion and kindness and what we must do to survive, and it will move you to tears.


It is my belief that Sarah Moss is the undisputed queen of taking everyday stories that seem ordinary at first glance, and stuffing them full of delicious, near unbearable tension. The Fell does not disappoint on this front; I closed the cover on the last page with shoulders like concrete.

Set during the early months of the pandemic and ensuing global lockdowns, The Fell focuses on the lives and inner thoughts of a cast of characters in a small English village: Kate and her teenage son Matt; their neighbour Alice; and Rob, a single parent charged with Kate’s rescue. Alice is a widowed cancer survivor, reliant on her neighbours Kate and Matt for grocery deliveries during lockdown, until they are deemed close contacts and need to self-isolate. Used to being able to wander the moors and mountain behind her home, Kate finds isolation far too much for her mental state and risks a chance trip onto the moors, resulting in a less-than-ideal situation for all involved.

Moss’ ability to capture the moment-by-moment minutiae of a middle-class life in lockdown is breathtaking. Her great skill lies in making the reader feel as though they are a voyeur of the scene she has created, that we are there with the characters, included yet unobtrusive.

Much like her previous novel Summerwater, The Fell is also intimately concerned with social class, the inexorable effects of capitalism on our society, and climate change. Moss offers much to ponder with this novel, while ultimately gifting the reader with a sense of relief that there are others in the world who have thought and felt the very same things we have during this strange time in history.

Tye Cattanach is a bookseller at Readings Carlton.

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