Book Review: When the English Fall

When the English Fall
By: David Williams
Published By: Algonquin Books
Publication Date: July 11, 2017
Page Count: 256
Buy it at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or IndieBound
Source: ARC Kindly Provided by Publisher
Adult - Fantasy

Jacob’s daughter Sadie has been having terrible seizures, and she dreams of the English (non-Amish people) falling. As he writes in his diary of her troubles, little does Jacob realize that Sadie’s dreams are a portent of the future. Soon, a large solar storm rips into the Earth’s atmosphere and disables most of our technology. Living close to the land, Jacob’s Amish community is mostly untouched by the catastrophe at first. But as people begin to flee the larger cities and make their way into the countryside, Jacob’s community must decide how they can continue living in peace as the world around them becomes increasingly violent. 

Apocalyptica is one of my favorite genres to read. Those life and death situations test characters’ principles, fortitude, and compassion. I love seeing how the immense pressures of failing civilization squeeze the very best and the very worst out of people. But until I came across When the English Fall, I had never read a story like that from an Amish perspective. Through this book, I got to know the Amish culture a bit better, beyond just the desire to be separate and the conscious decision to be low tech. 

Having a member of the Amish community as the main character, though, simultaneously took away a lot of the struggle that normally propels this kind of book forward. The Amish are peaceful and willing to share what they have with others, so even when bad things start happening nearby, the conflict level in the book is much less than in other end of the world stories. As I was reading, I kept waiting for the big dramatic moment. It eventually happens, but the book is nearly over by that point. To me, that would have been a better place to start the story. 

I also wish that Williams had further explored Sadie’s seizure dreams. I loved how he left so much to interpretation: the seizures can be controlled with medicine, but her visions clearly predict the future. But I wish Williams had been more explicit in how Sadie’s dreams were perceived within her community and how that foreknowledge might affect people’s behavior. Will her elders heed her warnings going forward, I wonder? 

When the English Fall is a fun summer stand-alone read with great potential for a sequel. Seriously. Please give me a sequel because I want to know what happens next!

A riveting and unexpected novel that questions whether a peaceful and nonviolent community can survive when civilization falls apart.
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.


  1. Adding this to my wishlist right now. I read Amish fiction sometimes, and I love this type of futuristic story.


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