Monday, April 4, 2011

Book Reviews #17

A Week in December - Sebastian Faulks

I hate it when this happens, two books read back to back and neither lived up to their author's worth.

Sebastian Faulks is one of my favourite authors, I love his writing, the characters are so alive, the storylines so gripping, his novels tend to be unputdownable and then there's always the impatient wait for the next new release. So this was a disappointment, made all the more harsh because I'd just read Solar by Ian McEwan, another great current writer, and been totally underwhelmed by that.

This book is, of course, beautifully written but for the length of book (352 pages) there seemed to be too many storylines, all in theory converging, especially when compared to Birdsong's 500+ pages and meagre two storylines.

I liked the ending (and not just so that I could move onto something that I might find more enjoyable) in that it didn't end as I'd spent most of the book thinking it would end, very clever Mr F, but that isn't quite enough to redeem this for me. It's not a Faulks that I would recommend a friend to read, unlike Birdsong which I foist on anyone and everyone as THE book to read to understand truly how grim WW I was (I have even got Germans reading it.) This is a very different book, covering the minutiea of at least nine lives during the week before Christmas as one of these people is planning a show off dinner to which most of these other people are invited.

The setting is current day London, the people concerned are mostly too rich for their own good, all apart from Gabriel who works in the law courts and Jenni the underground train driver whose embrionic love affair we get to witness. The majority of the rest of the cast are mostly unlikeable, there is Tranter the book reviewer (who is actually also not rich) who seems to despise every single living author and makes cynicism his byword and yet by the end of the book is clearly going to live very happily ever after (Mr Faulks wanting to keep reviewers sweet by treating them nice?) Veales is a fund manager who lives only to make money, a horribly manipulative man who necessitates far too many pages being taken up with explanations of hedge funds and banking - yawn. Knocker is an amusing character, a self made lime pickle millionaire off to meet the Queen to receive an OBE, what neither he nor his wife realise though is that their 20 year old son is getting mixed up with radicals and is involved in a bombing plot. Yet another storyline follows the 16 year old son of Veales, who is left alone by disinterested parents and has money to burn, Finn's 'mild' drug useage ends up with him in an NHS psychiatric ward after he manages to short circuit his neurones.

As an essay about modern life and culture in England this certainly ticks all the boxes, maybe that's way I didn't enjoy it so much, it's too close to home, frighteningly close, a very clever man that Sebastian Faulks chappie, very clever, but I still don't think I'd recommend it on.

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