Wednesday, 30 September 2009

A Week in December by Sebastian Faulks

DATE PUBLISHED: 2009 DATE READ: September 2009 NOTES: Sebastian Faulks has been very ambitious in writing his latest book. A Week in December may have been intended as a “state of the nation” novel but it is too “Londoncentric” to be that. It is, however, a compelling read. A group of disparate characters are living their lives in late December 2007 – including a conniving hedge fund owner, an embittered literary critic, an ingenuous chutney millionaire, a struggling lawyer, a book-loving Tube driver, a Polish footballer, a young Muslim turning to fundamentalism and a young white guy turning to drugs. In the course of the book the lives of all the characters interact and overlap. Not all characters get equal space in the narrative and some are much more compelling than others. The lawyer Gabriel and the Jenni the Tube drive are an unlikely but likeable couple – and would be worthy of a sequel! I thought that the chutney millionaire Farooq al-Rashid was a bit too unworldly although his attempts to improve his literary knowledge in order to talk to the Queen at his forthcoming investiture were very funny. The literary critic R. Tranter was hilarious – all his sections were written with great verve and confidence. A Week in December is well plotted and complex and Faulks does not fall into any stereotypical ending. The financial transactions are fully explained – although they left me baffled at times (my fault, I feel, rather than the author’s). The hedge fund owner will make enormous profits by using vaguely legal methods. The fact that millions of African farmers will be impoverished as a result does not bother him at all. At the dinner party at the end of the book Roger Malpasse gives an impassioned speech about financial malpractice and the greed of so-called entrepreneurs. Although a bit uneven in parts A Week in December is an entertaining, complex, thoughtful and, above all, passionate work.

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