Tuesday, 12 August 2014

A Possible Life - Sebastian Faulks


In Second World War Poland, a young prisoner closes his eyes and pictures going to bat on a sunlit English cricket ground.

Across the yard of a Victorian poorhouse, a man is too ashamed to acknowledge the son he gave away.

In a 19th-century French village, an old servant understands—suddenly and with awe—the meaning of the Bible story her master is reading to her.

On a summer evening in the Catskills in 1971, a skinny girl steps out of a Chevy with a guitar and with a song that will send shivers through her listeners' skulls.

A few years from now, in Italy, a gifted scientist discovers links between time and the human brain and between her lover's novel and his life.

Throughout the five masterpieces of fiction that make up A Possible Life, exquisitely drawn and unforgettable characters risk their bodies, hearts and minds in pursuit of the manna of human connection. Between soldier and lover, parent and child, servant and master, and artist and muse, important pleasures and pains are born of love, separations and missed opportunities. These interactions—whether successful or not—also affect the long trajectories of characters' lives.


A Possible Life is the second book of Faulkes’ that I have read, the other being Birdsong, and it cemented the idea in me that, disregarding of content, his books are flawlessly written. His writing seems to effortlessly tread the line between ornate and easy to read. In this book, Faulkes does not use language simply for it’s own sake, but as a method of fluidly conveying his stories.

Before I go any further , I would like to point out that this is a book of five short stories. It is not a novel, which is what I presumed it to be, me and the rest of the world it seems. So if you don’t like short stories, don’t read it. Or maybe do. I am usually not a fan of the short story, maybe it was all those horrendous essays they made us read and write at school, but after a while I began to shiver at the sight of a short story. But after buying the book I thought I’d give it a lash, and I really enjoyed it. While they could be read separately, all five stories follow the same theme so you might as well read them in one go.

There are no dud stories in this book. All five have extremely interesting plots, all five span over quite a long period of time, covering a sizable chunk of the protagonists’ lives. Despite the variety and range of the stories and settings, each one contains definite characters, each with their own unique voice. Without doubt my favorite story was the last one, but that’s just personal preference. Objectively each was as good as the next.

The theme of the book is the randomness of life and love and everything that is tied together with it. Sounds deep right? It was so deep I’m not sure if I really understood it. As far as I can tell Faulkes explores the nature of life, and what makes us human. The back of my book says he explores ‘the chaos created by love, separation and missed opportunities’ , and that seems about right to me so I’ll use that. There is an extremely interesting story about an Italian scientist , set the future, who tries to discover what it is that gives us our humanity. Whether or not it is scientifically accurate, if it is Faulkes’ mad musings, the theory is either terrifying or magnificent, depending on how you value science.

In conclusion, this is a pretty good collection of short stories, which may or may not be extremely deep and perceptive ( I couldn’t tell ), written extremely well.

Four Stars.

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