Hardback: 294 pages
Genre: Literary Fiction
Publisher: Hutchinson 2012
Source: Tywyn Public Library
First Sentence: Geoffrey Talbot was supposed to be a linguist, but spent most of his time at university playing games.
Favourite Quotes: 1. “Sometimes my whole life seems like a dream; occasionally I think that someone else has lived it for me. The events and the sensations, the stories and the things that make me what I am in the eyes of other people, the list of facts that make my life ... They could be mine, they might be yours.”
2.“If not just the brain but the quirks that made the individual were composed of recycled matter only, it was hard to be sure where the edges of one such being ended and another person began.”
3. “I don't think you ever understand your life - not till it's finished and probably not then either. The more I live the less I seem to understand.”
Review Quote: "It does what any good novel should - it unsettles, it moves, and it forces us to question who we are" (Sunday Times)
My Opinion: An extremely profound and thought provoking novel
“Sometimes my whole life seems like a dream; occasionally I think that someone else has lived it for me. The events and the sensations, the stories and the things that make me what I am in the eyes of other people, the list of facts that make my life ... They could be mine, they might be yours.”
“If not just the brain but the quirks that made the individual were composed of recycled matter only, it was hard to be sure where the edges of one such being ended and another person began.”
“I don't think you ever understand your life - not till it's finished and probably not then either. The more I live the less I seem to understand.”
While I was reading this and immediately afterwards whilst thinking about this review I had very mixed emotions about the whole concept of this novel which the author has called 'a novel in five parts'. Maybe it has something to do with the emotional year I have had in my personal life but I found this to be an extremely profound and thought provoking novel, just read again the quotes above! If as one of the characters Elena ponders 'our brains are composed of re-cycled matter' it is difficult to be sure where one one human ends and another begins. Maybe this is what the author is trying to show us, how we are all subtly connected through shared encounters, thoughts and impressions.
Crossing continents and times from the 19C to the future this is a story in five parts. An English teacher, a landlord of London slums, a French servant, an Italian scientist and finally a British record producer in the USA all share the drama of their particular lives and how lives can be shaped by love and opportunity. There are links across time and place for example the workhouse and French cottage are mentioned in more than one part, plus the character in the future, has dreams about the past we have already read about.
In conclusion this was an unsettling read but one which will satisfy his many established fans and may well draw in new readers as once again he has shown the breadth of diversity in his writing.
Link to video on YouTube
Sebastian Faulks introduces 'A Possible Life'
I have read the majority of his novels, four of which I have previously reviewed here, I am including the links to them for those of you that might be interested.
Devil May Care Engleby Human Traces A Week In December
Sebastian Charles Faulks CBE was born in Donnington, England on April 20th 1953 He is a novelist, journalist, and broadcaster who is best known for his historical novels set in France — The Girl at the Lion D'Or, Birdsong, and Charlotte Grey. He comes from an interesting family background as can be read in this biographical profile.
He is the son of Pamela (Lawless) and Peter Ronald Faulks, a Berkshire solicitor who later became a judge. He grew up in Newbury. His mother was both cultured and highly strung. She introduced him to reading and music at a young age. Her own mother, from whom she was estranged, had been an actress in repertory. His father was a company commander in the Duke of Wellington's Regiment, in which he served from 1939 to 1946. He saw action in Holland, France, Tunisia, Italy (at the Anzio landings), Syria and Palestine. He was wounded three times and awarded an immediate MC after an action against the Hermann Goering Parachute Troops in North Africa in 1942.
His maternal grandfather, Philip Henry Lawless, enlisted in the 1st Battalion, 28th county of London Regiment, otherwise known as The Artists' Rifles in 1914, and served in trench warfare on the Western Front until 1917, when he moved to the 26th Battalion Middlesex Regiment and finished the war in Salonika. He was decorated several times and received the Military Cross in 1918, the standard Victory Medal, the British War Medal and the 1914 Star. He eventually left the Army and returned to work as a wine merchant - his father's original occupation.
His paternal grandfather, Major James Faulks (Major was his name, not a military rank) was an accountant who had previously worked as a schoolmaster at a private boarding school in Tunbridge Wells, while Major's provisions merchant father, William Robert Faulks, supplied dairy products in late Victorian Paddington.
Faulks' father wanted him to become a diplomat. He claims his first ambition was to be a taxi driver until at the age of fifteen, while reading George Orwell, he decided to become a novelist instead. In fact, he is the only member of his paternal family not to be a lawyer; his father and uncle were judges and his brother Edward is a QC specialising in medical negligence.
Faulks was educated at the fee-charging Wellington College and studied English at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where he won an open exhibition and to which he was elected an honorary fellow in 2007. He took a teaching job at the Dwight-Franklin International School after university while also moving into journalism, becoming a features writer for the Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph, and was recruited by the Independent as Literary Editor in 1986. He became the Deputy Editor of the Independent on Sunday before leaving in 1991 to concentrate on writing. He has been a columnist forThe Guardian (1992-8) and The Evening Standard (1997-9).
He continues to contribute articles and reviews to a number of newspapers and magazines and to broadcast regularly. He wrote and presented the Channel 4 series Churchill's Secret Army, about the wartime Special Operations Executive (SOE), screened in 1999. Faulks is a team captain on BBC Radio 4's literary quiz The Write Stuff.
Faulks lives with his wife, Veronica (formerly his assistant at The Independent), and their three children William, Holly and Arthur . He works from his study in a top floor flat of a house near Holland Park Avenue, ten minutes from his home, starting work at 10am and finishing at 6pm, regardless of whether he is writing a book or not.
He was appointed a CBE in the Birthday Honours List 2002 for "services to Literature" and he was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1994.
Faulks supports West Ham United. He writes about this in "Upton and Other Parks," a contribution to the 1990 football book Saturday's Boys.
The biographical information and photo used in this post are with thanks to the following websites, where you can also find more information about the author and his writing.
Goodreads Author Profile Sebastian Faulks - Biography Amazon Author Profile
Sebastian Faulks - Facebook Author's Official Website