Descending by Catherine Chisnall

Title: Descending
Author: Catherine Chisnall
Publisher: Smashwords
Publication Date: June 5, 2010
ISBN: 0011061308 (ISBN13: 2940011061301)
available @ Amazon | Smashwords | B&N 

Summary: Emily is a lonely, disillusioned, teaching assistant at a college of Further Education. Jamie is a neglected, unpredictable student. Trapped together in a falling lift, wherever will this lead? Told from Emily's point of view, this story explores the ambiguity of relationships between staff and students, and reflects on who is actually in control.

This book is a bit outside my usual reading zone. The subject interested me quite a bit. I've seen on the news teachers who have been arrested for having an affair with their students. I often wondered to myself why in the world would they do something like that? Catherine Chisnall tackles this question with Descending. The story is told from Emily's point of view. Emily is a thrity-something teaching assistant who is unsatisfied and bored with her life. Emily feels "invisible and anonymous".  After what is thought 'a near death' experience in a elevator with with one of her students, Emily's life begins to change. In the moments before the elevator is thought to crash, Emily shares a passionate kiss with Jamie, her student. Thus their affair begins. 
I have a bit of sympathy for Emily. She feels cheated in life and she's bored with the monotony of everyday life. This 'affair' makes her feel alive for the first time in a very long time.  However she keeps making disastrous choices for herself.  Her friends in this novel warn her again and again that her actions will bring bad consequences. I kept thinking while reading, "Emily is so going to jail". Her character was a little hard to take sometimes because of her actions. Jamie's character at first didn't agree with me. He seemed like a little punk who just wanted sex. Jamie comes from a rough background. He's in college learning construction but is hindered because he is dyslexic.  Jamie has had a crush on Emily for sometime but has never acted on it before the elevator scene. I think Emily's attention makes him feel special in a way that he hasn't before. Jamie changes over the course of this story to make him more likable.  However the age difference in this novel is a big beacon. Obviously it's morally and legally wrong but the maturity levels at these ages are also vast. The way you approach life situations at these ages are quite different. Jamie and Emily are no exception. 
Emily is constantly sexually harassed at the college. So many times during this novel I wanted to smack the teenage boys in this book. 
The story line in this book is interesting and at times, disturbing.  The book's setting is in the UK. I thought it was fascinating to learn another country views on this subject. At times the characters and the situations made me mad. This book is easily something I could see happening in real life. The book didn't take me long to read at all and was definitely thought provoking.  

Check out Catherine Chisnall on her blog

*I received a copy of Descending from the author for review purposes only. This in no way influenced my opinion of the novel.


  1. I love thought provoking books :-D

  2. Sounds like an interesting read, and very much like a true-to-life situation with elements that most people can identify with. Thanks for a great review.

  3. @lushbookreviews and Lisette Brody, Thanks for your comments :D

  4. Wow, interesting subject matter. I agree that what I'd like even more about this is that it's set somewhere other than the US - the differences between age of consent and other views of sexual issues really add something.

    Nice review - I see there's a sequel to the story too.


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