The idea behind "A Week in December" is similar to that of the Richard Curtis film of a few years back. We follow various of London's inhabitants in the week before Christmas and discover their interconnectedness. And, at the end, love is the answer - parental love, romantic love and love of money, status and power.
It's an ambitious idea but, as a whole, it didn't work for me. In the first few pages of the book, the reader is exposed to a "bullet -point" list of about 30 characters (rather like a particularly dreary Powerpoint presentation), many of whom play no significant part in the following four hundred-odd pages. This "data dump" is followed up by (to my mind) tedious lectures about high finance in unnecessary detail. The funniest sections of the book concerned the literary critic, but I felt there were far too many in-jokes about the literary establishment for this to be effective. The parts intended as satire - concerning the reality TV show and the online parallel universe game fell flat for me, partly because these already seemed dated - the parody is of "Second Life" rather than today's ubiquitous Facebook. Many of the characters seemed to merge into one stereotype - I had difficulty in particular with distinguishing most of the women from one another.
The character that I found of most interest was the would-be suicide bomber Hassan - his story of all, was well-told. His parents were also drawn with warmth and humour. There were one or two other minor characters who were of interest, or added a light touch - such as Roger - and I felt I would have liked to have seen more from these people's lives rather than yet more information on hedge funds.
Normally, I love books from Sebastian Faulks - and I even forgave the psychology lectures in "Human Traces" as the book was so powerful and full of humanity. Towards the end of "A Week in December", I found a passage which made me wonder - like other reviewers - if the whole thing is some kind of weird joke on Faulks' part:
"From now on, you can only write about the nineteenth century...no more stuff about today...but...anything from before you were born, that should be alright, shouldn't it?"
"I, er...I think you may be right. The truth is I can't bear contemporary stuff."
Reading "A Week in December" was, for me, rather like being on Jenni's Circle Line train. I was looking forward to a journey round the people and places of London but instead I was stuck in a claustrophobic carriage packed too full of people that ground to an unexplained halt in the middle of nowhere.