Disclaimer: This book was given to me free of charge by the publishers in exchange for an honest review
Synopsis (from amazon)
Terrified, a young prisoner in the Second World War closes his eyes and pictures himself going out to bat on a sunlit cricket ground in Hampshire.
Across the courtyard in a Victorian workhouse, a father too ashamed to acknowledge his son.
A skinny girl steps out of a Chevy with a guitar; her voice sends shivers through the skull.
Soldiers and lovers, parents and children, scientists and musicians risk their bodies and hearts in search of connection – some key to understanding what makes us the people we become.
Provocative and profound, Sebastian Faulks’s dazzling novel journeys across continents and time to explore the chaos created by love, separation and missed opportunities. From the pain and drama of these highly particular lives emerges a mysterious consolation: the chance to feel your heart beat in someone else’s life.
Despite being rather disappointed with the last book I read from Sebastian Faulks I would still happily describe myself as a fan. Birdsong is one of my favourite books, although Engleby shows a greater writing skill. So when I was contacted about reviewing A Possible Life I was very eager. A small part of me worried that it would be in a similar vein to A Week in December, but you can’t expect to love every book by an author so I tried to approach A Possible Life without any reference to Faulks’ back-catalogue.
There was something strange about this novel in that it wasn’t really one. It was actually a collection of short stories. It was advertised as being a novel made up of stories with a link. Well there maybe was a link, if you insisted on finding it, but only because of something which featured in the last story, it wasn’t a link you would see if you weren’t looking for it, and I’m not really happy with calling it a list.
In some ways I think A Possible Life might be a good place to start with Faulks. It’s almost like a showcase. Different styles of writing, different themes. I think everyone is bound to enjoy one of the stories, however it might be a fight to get to the story you like.
For me the best stories were the first and the last.
The first had certain echoes of Birdsong, not just because it was a story of war but also because it had a certain level of insight to that experience. My problem with this story however was that it felt like it was stripped down. All the stories ran over a period of decades, which was good in a way because it showed the progress of a character, but also meant you didn’t feel you were getting enough detail.
The last story was the story of a gifted music artist. It’s the story which has stuck with me the most. Faulks’ descriptions of Anya’s music make me want to hear her sing- but seeing as she isn’t real I can’t do that! There was also an almost beautiful fragility to Anya which made me really care about her- or maybe that’s just what the narrator felt for her. Even if it is the second then it shows that Faulks’ first person narrative is realistic and evocative. I could have read a whole book about Anya, and it may have been able to make into a whole book, but only if it was either told by Anya herself, or without using the first person narrative, either of which I feel would have taken something away from the story.
Thinking about it all of the stories did have an element I liked, but (except for the possible exception of the last story) those moments seemed to be over all too quickly and were surrounded by moments which I didn’t care so much about.
I’m not really sure how I want to rate this book. The stand out parts are close to 5 stars, but other bits only really deserve 3. So (for now at least) I’m going to skip the rating on this one.
Paperback: pre-order (£7.19)
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