Friday, 28 October 2011
A Week in December by Sebastian Faulks
Publisher: Vintage 21
Page count: 400
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 came across A Week in December one lazy Saturday afternoon when I was having a browse through my local book shop. I tend to choose books in a few ways; the cover, the title or if someone else seems to be absorbed in the book; which probably sounds a little creepy! Anyway, it's not the sort of book that I would usually choose for myself, but I was in the mood for something different so I decided to give it a go, and I'm so glad I did.
It was a riveting read from beginning to end. Faulks crafts his characters with such wit and skill. The book was very well-written with intricately plotted stories which were expertly interwoven throughout. I would have one small criticsm in that I found the author went into a little too much detail about hedge funds and the finance sector. I caught myself skimming those pages after a while.
However, I found Faulk's characters quite diverse but very engaging at the same time. The dysfunctional family is represented by John Tranter; a rather unlikeable, work-obsessed man who is married to an alcoholic. Their son spends most of his time alone in his room, taking drugs and their daughter spends many nights sleeping at her friend's house. Then there is the middle class Indian family, whose son briefly almost becomes an extremist, but backs out at the last minute. I particularly enjoyed the building love story between barrister, Gabriel, and train driver, Jenni. I found their characters particularly touching.
Faulks manages to build the suspense right from the start of the book. I think this book is a real page-turner and an excellent story which I would recommend.