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The Fatal Englishman: Three Short Lives [Kindle Edition]

Sebastian Faulks
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Christopher Wood, a beautiful young Englishman, decided to be the greatest painter the world had seen. He went to Paris in 1921. By day he studied, by night he attended the parties of the beau monde. He knew Picasso, worked for Diaghilev and was a friend of Cocteau. In the last months of his 29-year life, he fought a ravening opium addiction to succeed in claiming a place in history of English painting.

Richard Hilary, confident, handsome and unprincipled, flew Spitfires in the Battle of Britain before being shot down and horribly burned. He underwent several operations by the legendary plastic surgeon, A H McIndoe. His account of his experiences, The Last Enemy, made him famous, but not happy. He begged to be allowed to return to flying, and died mysteriously in a night training operation, aged 23.

Jeremy Wolfenden was born in 1936, the son of Jack, later Lord Wolfenden. Charming, generous and witty, he was the cleverest Englishman of his generation, but left All Souls to become a hack reporter. At the height of the Cold War, he was sent to Moscow where his louche private life made him the plaything of the intelligence services. A terrifying sequence of events ended in Washington where he died at the age of 31.

Product Description


"Flawless... Poetic... Superbly portrayed... [Faulks's] feat of phenomenal" (Daily Telegraph)

"A mystery story of rare narrative power" (Financial Times)

"Sebastian Faulks is a master at switching on the emotions of the reader... The spare narrative hides a commitment to his subject which pulls you in and leaves you gasping for those lost lives" (Brian Masters Mail on Sunday)

"Compelling and stunningly written" (The Times)

"Faulks is a prodigiously talented writer" (New York Times)

Book Description

'Wildly's a classic' David Hare

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 531 KB
  • Print Length: 362 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0099518015
  • Publisher: Vintage Digital; New Ed edition (26 Jan. 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0031RS90C
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #50,455 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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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
28 of 31 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Acclaimed novelist Sebastian Faulks (Birdsong, Charlotte Gray) turns his hand to biography with this vivid account of the brief lives of a 1920s painter, a World War II flying ace, and a Cold War spy.
Christopher Wood was a gifted but struggling artist who eked out an existence on the fringes of the glittering Paris social scene, before committing suicide at the age of 29 in 1930. Richard Hillary was a decorated war hero who returned to flying after recovering from severe injuries, only to die in an fatal air crash at 24, and Jeremy Wolfenden was a formidably intelligent and rakish Cambridge graduate who may or may not have been recruited as a spy while working in Moscow in the early 1960s; at 31, burnt-out, he died of a suspected drink and drugs overdose.
Faulks writes an intense, compassionate account of these tragically short lives; immersing the reader in each gripping yet ultimately poignant personal story, as well as sharply evoking the decade to which each of the fatal Englishmen belonged.
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38 of 43 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dragons on their shoulders 6 July 1999
By A Customer
I picked up Three fatal Englishmen after my first Sebastian Faulks encounter, which was Birdsong.
The three people in question are young men of brilliance. Their talents - artistic, courageous, and intellectual - are as varied as their personalities and surrounding environments.
Yet there is commonality throughout the narratives. These are men with a thermal nuclear intensity of purpose and dedication - a snap dragon occupies each man's shoulder. These are men living within oceanic environments of change, where the forces that tempt them in to the water are the forces that eventually cover and destroy them.
Few people will have heard about the lives of Christopher, Richard and Jeremy before opening the book. I was glad about that. It creates a freshness that is often lacking in biographies; there are no prejudices or expectations beyond the historical setting of each story. The book is set barely a generation away from today, but few of us can really appreciate the lives and surroundings that Faulkes is describing.
How does Faulkes achieve this? Well I sensed the same kind of Ravel's Bolero approach that was evident in the final stages of Birdsong, where the narrative slowly builds and builds - tempting you towards the tragic climax. Mix in Faulkes' journalistic precision, the right focus and balance on historical detail and I think you have an answer for why these biographies work.
For me the most engaging was number two - the story of Richard Hillary the fighter pilot. Perhaps this is familiar territory for Faulks, the chaos of war and its' tragic ironies. I think it's easy to pick up the evident fascination for the incredible changes that war creates inside the individual.
Let me conclude by summarising Faulk's achievement as a well formed tribute to three fascinating men living in three different and compelling worlds. Enjoy the experience!
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5.0 out of 5 stars waste? Or living life to the full 20 July 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book looks at some promising Englishmen who lived life to the full, with passion and ambition and who all died young.

Cocteau, who kept youthful by taking young lovers, loved this book.

Despite winning two world wars, Faulks seems to think that, since 1914 we have been numbed by war. Boys at school each morning had heard the names of boys of only the term before being killed in battle. There's an evident fascination for the incredible changes that war creates inside the individual.
Painter Christopher (Kit) Wood (1901-1930) was four years old when his father returned from the front. Wood, it is said, was as beautiful as Rupert Brooke and went abroad at age 19 and was later proud to call himself "the first English painter to have made it in France". He observed that the English have little appetite for painting or psychology. Aesthetic Catholicism at St. Sulpice in Paris caught his eye.

England ignored continental thinking about homosexuality. Havelock Ellis's work was published in 1897 in the US but not in England until 1935.

He got a girlfriend who worked as a mannequin, then a tom boy who he saw as pure, denying any sexual element. His gamine sexuality was towards those who were slim, often boyish, any wide-eyed young woman who is, or is perceived to be, mischievous, teasing or sexually appealing. He gloried in his "immorality"; a cadger, catamite, sybarite, cherished by the rich of Paris, taken on wonderful journeys by millionaires of taste, threading through war-zones without concern. Once, stuck in traffic in the Centro in Rome, he found himself looking into the eyes of Mussolini in the car alongside him. Both men looked away. He never returned to his family home in Huyton or his beloved mother and took no notice of the gathering storm.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One for the grandchildren 24 Oct. 2013
By Pexico
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I bought this book, one as it included an article on Richard Hillary but also hoping that it would interest the grandchildren
and encourage them to find out more about people of the 30's/40's
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Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A fine book, or is it three? Three very English and interesting characters, whose short suicidal lives have many characteristics in common. Through what must have been a considerable amount of research, Faulks has managed to assemble enough information to produce these beautifully-written stories which read like novels but stick as far as we know to the facts. Somehow the author also manages to immerse the reader completely in the period atmosphere of each story. I'm not a fan of short stories as a rule, but each one of these is substantial enough and so well written as to be a stand-alone gem, making the three together an excellent trilogy. Recommended to anyone really - it defies categorisation, including as it does art, romance, war, spying, the cold war, and some outstandingly interesting biography.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
gripping read
Published 2 months ago by Mrs. D. K. Bellamy
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
don't expect something as good as Birdsong. This is interesting but hard work.
Published 3 months ago by Peter D
2.0 out of 5 stars Struggled with this. So much so that I didn't ...
Struggled with this. So much so that I didn't read all the tales. The writing was dreary and just didn't capture my imagination. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Flappit Witch
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Very enjoyable and thoughtful book. Do not be put off by the short story format.
Published 3 months ago by Dr. Gary Campbell
5.0 out of 5 stars amazing research, very dense book
Read for our reader's group, amazing research, very dense book, interesting lives of three, previously unknown to me, men.
Published 5 months ago by babyboomer46
4.0 out of 5 stars Makes you want to investigate these people (and others mentioned)...
Three very varied biographies, but written in the same way by Faulks, using his imagination, background knowledge of the eras and gift of writing to convey them in a novel way, but... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Mrs M A Fenton
1.0 out of 5 stars One Star
Extremely tedious and monotonusly written
Published 5 months ago by Graham
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Brilliant book again from a brilliant author; I loved this book; it was real and heart-rending;
Published 6 months ago by WKR
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful writing, the book leaves you feeling that you ...
Wonderful writing, the book leaves you feeling that you know the three men, and their strengths and flaws. A great book for holidays.
Published 6 months ago by bri r
3.0 out of 5 stars the human condition
A deep study of homosexual feelings combined with action & excitement. Ac-dc ambivalence is also explored
Published 6 months ago by davidjohnharwood
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