Review: Liliane’s Balcony
Fiction: A Novella of Fallingwater
5½” x 8” perfect-bound trade paperback
Rose Metal Press
Brookline, Massachusetts, USA
Review originally published on 6/6/14
I didn’t look at a single picture of Fallingwater, the house, until after I’d finished Kelcey Parker’s Liliane’s Balcony. I was surprised at the predominance of the cantilever in the structure, despite Parker’s earnest and accurate descriptions. I’d expected something rounder, more organic, in a way, truer as I thought to the story itself, which has no harsh angles, no shocks. Parker’s novella is centered around Fallingwater, a home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright for the Kaufmans, a successful merchant family. Situated over a waterfall, and built as only Wright could build a house, Fallingwater is the locus for Liliane’s story, as she is slowly tormented by her husband’s infidelities, and the story of a number of other characters in the present, whose lives come to various conclusions while touring the home. Considering the story, and the context, I now think that Fallingwater’s angles service as a metaphor for the hope that the home once carried — the futuristic look of them, and the home as a whole, blurring and blending and mastering the landscape. It’s fitting then, that the family within the home is brought down by ancient and common desires.
What Parker creates in Liliane’s Balcony is a feeling of inexorability. Delving on occasion backward and forward in time, shifting into the future and crossing characters, the reader becomes intimate with the pains and needs of the cast. It is Liliane’s story, through and through, and it is when dealing with her, and her time, that Parker’s flash-fiction structure and organization shines brightest. While a work of fiction, Parker was able to cleave to fact as often as possible, and the conversations we’re privy to, the dance between Liliane’s imagined thoughts and her husband Edgar’s real letters, are wrenching, beautiful, and ring utterly true. The private moments with Liliane, her interaction with artists, her few letters, are something to treasure. There is a certain amount of artifice felt in the other sections, dealing with the tour guests of Fallingwater, even though their structure adds to and mimics the building’s own. The shifting perspectives in the present at times withhold, cut like a camera, and only then do we see some cracks in the edifice. These cracks are minor, however, and the reader is quite taken by the narratives, the interplay, and most of all the keen sense of self exuded by each narrator — the lines in the present are, in fact, often more cutting than the harshest in Liliane’s time. And while there is a sense of foreboding throughout the book, that inexorability gives way, finally, to a small amount of hope, and relief, and even the smallest amount of visceral justice.
While the technique and structure of Liliane’s Balcony at times gets a little overwrought, there is no burying the story within. I could have read a book twice the length with as much relish, but Parker is wise to keep these layered tales brief, to hit an emotional note and move on. The structure of Liliane’s Balcony resembles Fallingwater itself, but its power is much more kin to the waterfall below.