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A Possible Life
 
 

A Possible Life [Kindle Edition]

Sebastian Faulks
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (186 customer reviews)

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Review

"Both intriguing and unsettling. [Faulks's] versatility as a writer is showcased in A Possible Life" (Discover Your History)

"Most easily appreciated as a series of compelling short stories. Poignant, powerful and tender, they are lined by the pain and passion, hope and hardship, accident and design which make up the drama of an individual life" (John Koski Mail on Sunday)

"It does what any good novel should - it unsettles, it moves, and it forces us to question who we are" (Sunday Times)

"A delight. A tightly written, moving and exciting" (Daily Telegraph)

"Faulks is a writer who gets better and better; he understands how to draw a reader in." (Daily Mail)

"A Possible Life is more than the sum of its parts . . . the stories acquire power as resonances between them accrete. Only at the end do you realise you've been won over by their quiet, glinting virtuosity" (The Times)

"Profound. Faulks evokes a deep compassion for all his troubled characters.exploring big ideas without compromising the human drama" (Observer)

"Faulk's most intriguing fictional offering... Moving...engaging...poignant" (Independent on Sunday)

"The storytelling is crisp, the characters sympathetic and the philosophical themes thought-provoking" (Mail on Sunday)

"The writing is masterfully controlled, without a word wasted. Avoiding excess emotion, Faulks evokes a deep compassion for all his troubled characters and by extension, for all of us who share their condition" (Observer)

Book Description

A Sunday Times bestseller this is an exhilarating new novel from the bestselling author of A Week in December and Birdsong.

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More About the Author

Sebastian Faulks was born in April 1953. Before becoming a full-time writer in 1991, he worked as a journalist. His French trilogy - The Girl at the Lion d'Or, Birdsong and Charlotte Gray (1989-1997) - established him in the front rank of British novelists. UK sales of Birdsong exceed 2,500,000 copies, and for this novel he was named "Author of the Year" by the British Book Awards in 1995. It is regularly voted one of the nation's favourite books. Charlotte Gray has also sold over a million copies and was filmed with Cate Blanchett in the main part.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Five stories or one? 12 Nov 2012
By Reddy
Format:Hardcover
`A Possible Life' is subtitled a `Novel in Five Parts'. These parts are, in fact, five apparently separate short stories about individual characters in different times and locations. They include a mild school teacher who finds himself in a Nazi concentration camp, a pop musician living a hedonistic life in 1970s USA, a scientist in Italy in the near future, a former workhouse inmate in the nineteenth century and a simple French woman living as a servant during the Napoleonic Wars.

This is a diverse range of settings, but Faulks' skills as a writer meant I became absorbed into these diverse lives of both male and female characters. There's no doubt that Faulks is attempting something profound - like his Italian scientist who is studying the brain to determine the essence of what makes us human - he is attempting to define a commonality between all human experience.

Some buildings appear in more than one story - a French farmhouse and a Victorian workhouse - but the characters themselves feel a connection to other times and places and lives. They all face choices between one thing and another, the `possible life' of the title. At some points I almost felt that Faulks was suggesting some kind of reincarnation when his characters catch glimpses into other existences and times.

But I'm not sure that the author might be going a step too far in his linking of stories and lives across time and space. At times he seems to be leading the reader by the hand to show us the connections. After all, if you're a regular reader of short stories, you'll know that the best of these writers can achieve this without telling us that they are. It is an enjoyable, thought-provoking book but I don't know that it is really more than a sum of its parts.
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54 of 58 people found the following review helpful
By Blue in Washington TOP 500 REVIEWER TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
"A Possible Life" is a collection of five separate novellas with only the occasional small connection between them. They are written in five time periods, although the dates given as chapter/story titles (1938, 1859, 2029, 1822 and 1971) are just place-holders for periods of time. If there is a central theme to the stories it is that life experience is more about the complexities of human relationships (or the lack thereof) than the experiencing of events. The book's/stories' perspectives seemed to me to be distinctly English, despite the setting of three of the accounts in Italy, France and the U.S. This is particularly important when the stories focus on relationships between children and parents, I think.

I found some of these tales moving at times: a man lives through the horror of a Nazi concentration camp in the service of the killers and returns to live out the rest of his years burdened with the immensity of that experience; another man is sent away as a child to a London work house by his parents but never repudiates his obligations to that family as an adult; a woman scientist participates in scientific investigation that proves that humans have no real souls; a peasant woman lives a life of unquestioning service to a loathsome bourgeois family after a profound religious awakening; and a musician becomes the enabler for a self-absorbed singer of prodigious talent at a considerable emotional cost. But ultimately, their impact and interest are uneven overall. For the most part, these are not characters that you like very much--and you don't get the impression that the author really wants your love as perhaps your respect for them. These are people thrust into situations and relationships that are painful or tedious or bewildering.
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81 of 88 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Intriguing Quintet of Stories 14 Sep 2012
By Susie B TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
Sebastian Faulks' latest book: 'A Possible Life', although described as a novel by the publishers, is actually five short stories moving from World War II, to a Victorian workhouse, forward in time to Italy in 2029, back to nineteenth century France and finally to California in the early 1970s.

In the first story 'A Different Man' we meet Geoffrey Talbot, a young half-French schoolmaster, working in prep school, who volunteers to go to France as part of a special unit during WWII. Before Geoffrey knows it, he has been captured by the Nazis and instead of being sent to a prisoner of war camp, he is sent to a death camp in Poland where he is given the absolute nightmare of a job involving the incineration of the bodies of Jewish men, women and children. Geoffrey copes by imagining himself playing cricket for his local club and stepping out to bat in front of scores of spectators watching from their deckchairs in the July sunshine; however when things become particularly harrowing and Geoffrey reaches the stage where he feels he would rather die than go on, he decides to make plans to escape...

In the second story 'The Second Sister' we are introduced to Billy, a young boy who is sent to the workhouse when his parents can no longer feed him. The story is narrated by Billy as he shares with the reader the story of his rise from beggardom to becoming a slum landlord. In this section the writing moves from the eloquent language of the prep school master in the first story, to the ungrammatical and colloquial language of a Victorian London urchin, which brings a totally different feel to the book.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing
If there was the opportunity to give less than one star I would be tempted to do so. From the author of Birdsong and Charlotte Grey I was expecting a war story of similar... Read more
Published 12 days ago by kimbo31260
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing.
I've enjoyed a lot of Mr Faulks' previous stuff but I have to say I found this rather tedious. Indeed, the further I got into it, the more pretentious it seemed to become. Read more
Published 15 days ago by bristle66
3.0 out of 5 stars I was a little disappointed with this book after reading "Birdsong"
I was a little disappointed with this book after reading "Birdsong" . I found the subject matter difficult to accept although I believe it to be an accurate account of the... Read more
Published 20 days ago by skymarker
4.0 out of 5 stars Philosophically Possible
Faulks is a demanding author. And this collection of marvellously engaging stories demonstrates the author's complexity of thoughts and ideas so well. Read more
Published 22 days ago by nickyb
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read
Another great read from Sebastian Faulks. A pity the stories end just when you' re enjoying it.
Published 24 days ago by alan boyd
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Slightly confusing ending but with some thought, it works exceptionally well.
Published 29 days ago by coslindasaid
4.0 out of 5 stars A couple of stand out stories that could have really ...
A couple of stand out stories that could have really been full length novels, a couple of stories that are not so memorable, but an enjoyable read generally.
Published 1 month ago by Daniel M Bryan-Harris
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Each story is beautifully written, rooted in a particular period and powerful.
Published 1 month ago by Vicky Mc-S
4.0 out of 5 stars short stories by the author of 'Birdsong'
..It's not clear from the cover that these are a collection of 5 very different short stories. Warning - The first includes a very graphic
account of a Nazi death camp. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Nick
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting collection of short stories
A thought provoking read which transports you to various worlds with different characters at different times in history. Fast paced and a surprising page turner.
Published 1 month ago by Gemma
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