Synopsis (from Amazon)
London, the week before Christmas, 2007. Over seven days we follow the lives of seven major characters: a hedge-fund manager trying to bring off the biggest trade of his career; a professional footballer recently arrived from Poland; a young lawyer with little work and too much time to speculate; a student who has been led astray by Islamist theory; a hack book-reviewer; a schoolboy hooked on skunk and reality TV; and a Tube train driver whose Circle Line train joins these and countless other lives together in a daily loop.
With daring skill, the novel pieces together the complex patterns and crossings of modern urban life. Greed, the dehumanising effects of the electronic age and the fragmentation of society are some of the themes dealt with in this savagely humorous book. The writing on the wall appears in letters ten feet high, but the characters refuse to see it – and party on as though tomorrow is a dream.
Sebastian Faulks probes not only the self-deceptions of this intensely realised group of people, but their hopes and loves as well. As the novel moves to its gripping climax, they are forced, one by one, to confront the true nature of the world they inhabit.
I was surprisingly sad to finish A Week in December in that for most of the book I didn’t actually enjoy it that much. It was a real disappointment as I usually really enjoy Sebastian Fawkes work. I have found that some of his novels have been slow to start before but this one was really slow to start, I didn’t start to get properly into it until there were less than 100 pages left. I possibly would have even given up by my 100 page cut off mark if it wasn’t for the fact that it being a Fawkes novel gave me hop that it would get good.
It took me a long time to get all the characters sorted out in my head, and even at the end I was getting Veals and errr what’s his name the
lawyer politician mixed up, err Lance that’s it. And I’m still not sure who Roger is. It doesn’t help that within the first few pages there was a great big long list of characters who would be invited to a dinner party, most of whom barely featured in the rest of the book.
In fact there were only two characters who were distinct right from the onset, the tube driver Jenni, and the Islamic student, Hassan. As far as Jenni went it still took me some time to get into her story but she felt like the most genuine of the characters, and once she met Gabriel I started enjoying her story more. Hassan’s storyline was the most interesting, and I expected much more of it [highlight for spoiler]because of that it was somewhat of an anti-climax. I expected the climax of the story to be him blowing up the hospital, where a number of the characters would be. I kind of liked him so in a way I am glad he didn’t but it did make the end less exciting.
Most of the other storylines held little interest for me. I found Veals to be a horrible little man but his story only held interest for me in relation to his wife and son. I really could have done without his who financial storyline, I found it generally went over my head and was pretty boring. Plus it took up far too much of the book. I didn’t like RT either, he was such a grumpy, self-satisfied, snob, I didn’t really care what happened to him and cared even less what he thought. I almost thought RT was included just so Fawkes could have a dig at his critics. I did like Gabriel as a character but his story was not very distinct, he didn’t really mean anything except in relation to Jenni.
In some ways A Week in December felt more like a social commentary than a novel. Fawkes talked about finance, and bankers. ‘Reality’ television. Books. The internet. The culture of blame. The rich/poor divide. Teenagers. Parents. Religion. Race. And immigration. Maybe he could have written a good non-fiction book on Britain or London today but I really don’t think it made a good novel.