Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A Possible Life

Sebastian Faulks called A Possible Life a novel.  I call it a book of short stories, linked by the finest of connective filament.  I'm a big fan of Sebastian Faulks; I'm not a big fan of short stories.  I probably wouldn't have picked up this book if I'd known it was short stories, so for me labelling it as a novel was clever (deceptive?) marketing.  I forgive Faulks (isn't that just so presumptuous of me?) because I'm so glad I read this book.

Faulks has enchanted me in the past.  My first Faulks book was Birdsong, a powerful, desperate, moving book about the First World War.  Smitten by Faulks' beautiful use of language and engrossing stories, I read The Girl at the Lion d'Or and Charlotte Gray both featuring war and France, and then On Green Dolphin Street,  about a duel between love and duty during the Cold War.   A Week in December is a contemporary story with a fast-paced plot and a scathing condemnation (and lucid explanation) of the current financial industry and the people who work there (previously reviewed here).  You could picture picking up A Week in December in a drug store, if you were the type to buy books there - a total departure from his previous works.

A Possible Life shows the same dazzling range of styles, characters, time periods, and places as his novels.  A British agent in France who spends horrific time as a prisoner of war.  A man who builds a life for himself after emerging from a grim Victorian workhouse.  Women scientists who discover the centre of selfhood in the near future.  A forlorn servant in early 19th C France.  And the rise of an exquisite singer in the 1970s.  Beautifully done.  I really must read all the rest of Faulks' books.

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