Posted by: billpurdue | February 18, 2010

87 A mixed reception for Sebastian Faulks’ latest

How often have you been surprised by the ending of a novel? – or possibly disappointed? Well, as far as surprise goes, A Week in December by Sebastian Faulks [Hutchinson £18.99 978-0091794453] certainly has it at the end, but possibly not the surprise or ending you would like. It is the week before Christmas, 2007 and Sophie Topping and her recently elected MP husband are planning a dinner party for the following weekend. Several of the people on the guest list feature quite prominently in the story, such as R Tranter, a professional book reviewer who seems to hate any literature published after 1900. Then there’s the thoroughly dislikeable John Veals, who during the course of the week, is plotting a financial coup to make a huge profit from the failure of a large bank. His interests are limited to anything involving making money for himself. Farooq and Nasim al-Rashid have risen to the top of the food trade by manufacturing lime pickle. Another guest who plays a prominent part in the story is Gabriel Northwood, a surprisingly impoverished barrister (I didn’t know there was such a thing).

Other big players in the story (though many of the players never actually meet, but have some connection with each other) include Farooq and Nasim’s son, Hassan, who has become radicalised and has joined a group planning a suicide bomb attack for the end of the week. Then there’s John Veals’ son Finbar, who like his sister, sees little of his parents and prefers to play fantasy football and smoke “skunk” in his room. Jenni Fortune is a tube train driver, who happened to be at the controls of a train when someone decided to jump in front of it a few weeks earlier. The family of the man is suing Transport for London over the incident and Jenni meets Gabriel in the course of the investigations.

So, for quite a while, the reader is kept guessing if and when all the characters will meet, but they never all do. It is nevertheless quite gripping at times and at one point, just when everything is coming to a climax, the story takes a different turn. I enjoyed the book, but with some reservations; for one thing the descriptions of the business methods employed by Veals were at times over my head, mainly due to a lot of jargon. Comments from other reviewers include “an attempt to encapsulate modern Britain”(Amazon reviewer) and “It is impossible not to enjoy Faulks’s vitality”(Prospect), and “a thoroughly thrilling ride”(Literary Review). Well, I still think it’s worth the effort.

A “trade paperback” is due out in April and the popular size paperback edition in September.

I’ve started reading….

London by Edward Rutherfurd [Arrow £8.99 978-0099201915], an epic journey through sixteen centuries of London’s rich history – all 1299 pages of it. It may take me some time, so if you want to know what I think of it, you may be in for a long wait. The edition currently available has only 784 pages, however – I’m not sure of the reason for that.

TV Tie-in

Monty Don is presenting a different kind of programme on the telly at the moment: “Mastercrafts”. This series is going to spawn quite a few craft type books, the first being a book simply called Mastercrafts : Rediscover British Craftsmanship [David and Charles, £20 978-0715336434] is published this month. Monty has been interviewed in the Telegraph recently about Mastercrafts


  1. You have a very interesting blog. This one is informative and I really enjoy reading this one. I will follow this to my favorites.

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