A Possible Life by Sebastian Faulks

In A Possible Life Sebastian Faulks ponders what it is that makes and shapes  human lives. This collection of five related stories spans both past and future time-frames with some stories more successfully developed than others.

The collection opens with “A Different Man” set in 1938. Geoffrey Talbot, a teacher, has enlisted to serve in World War II and is preparing to go undercover to occupied France. Although Faulks has written beautiful and compelling novels set around the first world war including Birdsong and Charlotte Grey, “A Different Man” does not quite reach the level of his earlier work.

The next story, “The Second Sister” set in 1859 is more successful. Here, Faulks provides a well imagined insight into the hardships of life that forced families into workhouses. There is good pace to this story and the characters are nicely realised making for a more engaging read than the earlier piece.

The third story, “Everything can be Explained” is set in the near future (2029) and is perhaps the best of the collection with some beautiful writing, particularly in the excerpt of a novel that one of the characters, Bruno, is writing. Bruno and his sister Elena are perhaps the most memorable characters from the entire collection.

Sebastian Faulks returns to the past (1822) in “A Door into Heaven”, the second last piece in the collection before skipping forward to 1971 for the last piece, “You Next Time”.

Sebastian Faulks has a strong body of work under his belt at this stage including his World War I series of The Girl at the Lion d’Or, Birdsong and Charlotte Grey — as well as his subsequent novels, On Green Dolphin Street and Human Traces. 

More recent work includes Engleby (2007) and A Week in December (2009) as well as the James Bond novel, Devil May Care which Faulks wrote as Ian Fleming.

A Possible Life by Sebastian Faulks was published by Henry Holt and Co.


  • ISBN-10: 0805097309;


  • ISBN-13: 978-0805097306.



A Week in December by Sebastian Faulks

A Week in December by Sebastian Faulks aims to be a state of the nation novel.

Set in London, the novel follows the stories of a number of different characters who are bound together by their connection to a dinner party being hosted by one of them. Some of the individual story lines are more interesting than others. The portrayal of, John Veals, the banker is one of the stronger elements and one where the author’s research genuinely adds to the telling of the tale. I also enjoyed the barrister character, Gabriel and his schizophrenic brother. Less appealing are the footballer and some of the others.


The trouble is that with so many different story lines in the same novel, you never really get to know as much as you might like to and, in the end, the individual stories don’t really gel as a whole. There is also the distraction of some allusions to the virtual world – Parralax for Second Life, for example – that somehow get in the way without really adding to the tale.

For me, this was a staccato and ultimately disappointing read. If you have never read Sebastian Faulks, I would not suggest starting with this novel but, because he is a writer capable of great works, like Birdsong, I would definitely recommend that you have him on your list. If, like me, you are a fan, then I do think it is worth giving A Week in December a go and I’d be interested to know what you make of it.

See also A Possible Life.

On Green Dolphin Street by Sebastian Faulks

I confess I am a sucker for a flawed hero and there’s a very appealing one here in On Green Dolphin Street.

Sebastian Faulks is one of my favourite authors. You know how some books stay with you for a long time? Well, for me, On Green Dolphin Street, and particularly Charles Linden – the flawed diplomat at the centre of this book – has done just that.

Set your flawed hero in New York in the 1950s and he becomes even more irresistable. On Green Dolphin Street is the story of the diplomat, his wife and her lover – told beautifully and sensitively.

I loved this sad tale. Yes, it’s a different book entirely from Birdsong, but for me Sebastian Faulks never disappoints.