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Human Traces Paperback – 6 Jul 2006

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Human Traces + Engleby + The Fatal Englishman: Three Short Lives
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Product details

  • Paperback: 800 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; New Ed edition (6 July 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099458268
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099458265
  • Product Dimensions: 13.1 x 4.3 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (119 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 35,571 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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.

Product Description


"An extraordinary novel of magnificent scope" (Evening Standard)

"Faulks is beyond doubt a master" (Financial Times)

"His most ambitious novel yet... Love, loyalty, courage, compassion, goodness...these are the poles around which his always skilful storytelling revolves" (Independent)

"Shocking and enlightening...touching and affecting" (Daily Mail)

"He is the best novelist of his generation" (Scotsman)

Book Description

Moving and challenging in equal measure, Human Traces explores the question of what kind of beings men and women really are.

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Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

54 of 55 people found the following review helpful By Joanne Schofield on 7 Feb. 2006
Format: Hardcover
Unfortunately I have to agree with the comments from the reviewer below - far too much detail. I started Human Traces eagerly and found it to be very interesting, particularly the descriptions of typical mental asylums in the 19th Century. But…. after about 200 pages my interest started to wane. I don’t wish to do the author a disservice as the time and effort Faulks has spent researching psychiatry is clearly evident and incredibly impressive, however I picked this book from the shelf thinking it was going to be an interesting (and, knowing Faulks, possibly thought provoking) work of fiction, not a dissertation on the history of mental illness. But unfortunately that’s what it turned out to be. At certain points Faulks literally transcribes speeches and lectures from the characters regarding their thoughts on psychiatry; one of which lasts for 22 pages!
Aside from that, I did enjoy the plot and enjoyed seeing how life treated Jacques and Thomas over the years. Ultimately this is a very interesting book and I’m sure those who have a particular interest in the field of neurology and psychology would hugely enjoy this book, but it was just too didactic for my liking.
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66 of 69 people found the following review helpful By LS Hamilton on 18 Dec. 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book was recommended to me, but before I started reading it I foolishly read some of the reviews on Amazon. This put me off starting it and then while I was reading it I kept waiting for it to become hard going or boring. It never did. I will say as others have said that sometimes the text and ideas are hard to follow and need reading over a couple of times, but these sections only last a few pages and soon you are back reading the beautiful family saga which the book ultimately is.

Sebastian Faulks has taken his obvious interest in the thoughts and philosophies of humans and woven them into a deeply human and touching story. I loved all the characters and cared for them. It was one of those books which I couldn't wait to get to bed to read and woke up early in the morning to see what would happen next.

It explores what it means to be human which although set in the past is very relevant to today. It gives insight into scientific research and the ways that new ideas are put forward then discounted or fall out of fashion. It made me realise that we are still a long long way from understanding the human mind one hundred years later.

I thought the ending was perfect and very satisfying. An incredibly rewarding book which makes you marvel at the skill of the writer.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By ghostinthemachine1 on 8 Jun. 2006
Format: Paperback
I got this at Christmas, and have just finished it five months later, which gives you an idea of how motivated I was to keep reading it! Not that it's bad - it had many interesting parts, and definitely got better as it went on. I just found that for the most part, the main objective of the book was an exposition of psychiatry and psychoanalysis around the beginning of the 20th century, with a novel tacked on the side. Really, to hold the reader's interest, it should have been the other way round - the novel, with its characters, themes, narrative to the foreground, and to explore the medical themes within that framework.

As it was, I found the characters dull and flat, and the narrative drive non existent - for much of the book, there was no drama, no conflict - everyone's lives went by without anything particularly interesting happening apart from medical lectures and patient examinations, much of which I have to admit I found just far too technical to really want to read.

A shame, because it is obviously very well written, and the good bits really held my attention. By far the best section of the book was Thomas's visit to Africa, which was interesting both in terms of what would happen and whether the expedition would make it back safely, and in the discovery of the footprints and Thomas's subsequent discourse on our ancestors and the voices they heard, which was both amazingly thought-provoking and incredibly moving. Daniel's experiences in the war were also a highlight - as was Thomas's announcement to the family that he has Alzheimer's, which was the most moving part of the book.

So in summary - all the bits in lecture halls or consulting rooms: too technical. All the bits about the idyllic life in the schloss: too boring. Everything else: great!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By miss me morris on 21 Nov. 2010
Format: Paperback
I read my first Sebastian Faulks book doing GCSE English literature; Birdsong. I thought it was a wonderful book, so beautifuly written and quietly powerful: I loved the way he turned quite gory detail into almost poetic prose. When I really love a book one of the first things I do is find other books by the same author and read them all; usually with great success. It touches on one of the joys of my childhood reading: getting a whole series of books... So when that satisfying but scary moment of closing on the final page comes, the sense of loss is negated by knowing there's something similar just waiting to be opened. Reading books by the same author in succession has a similar satisfaction, with the added interest of seeing the author change over time, witnessing their style develop and finding the themes that may thread through the books. So, after reading Birdsong I then, over the years, read his other books and enjoyed them all (with the exception of Engelby). But none of them moved or impressed me the way Birdsong had done. That was until I cracked the spine of Human Traces.

Aside from Faulks' consistently poetic and sensitive aproach to difficult scenes, his subject matter was a large part of what I enjoyed about Human Traces: the human mind, evolution, psychology, psychoanalysis, human relationships and the birth of a medical profession. It is clear that Faulks put the time time in to research the subjects thoroughly and the knowledge is imparted through the characters so beautifuly it's like witnessing a perfectly choreoghraphed dance. He captures the excitement and motivations of a generation perfectly, you feel emmersed in this scientific movement completely.
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