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The Fatal Englishman: Three Short Lives [Paperback]

Sebastian Faulks
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
RRP: 9.99
Price: 6.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Book Description

30 Jan 1997

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.


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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; New Ed edition (30 Jan 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099518015
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099518013
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 20 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 44,787 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

Review

"Flawless... Poetic... Superbly portrayed... [Faulks's] feat of imagination...is 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 exciting..it's a classic' David Hare

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
38 of 42 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dragons on their shoulders 6 July 1999
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
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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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
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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1 of 1 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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By Bronte
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a masterful, probing and deeply sensitive treatise on three rare, driven but flawed achievers who could never be anything else but what they became. Short, burning brightly but extinguished too soon but inevitably.
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19 of 24 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Three biographical sketches of talented Englishmen who met early demises aided by (respectively)opium, foolhardiness, and alcohol, and (in all three cases) cultural/generational mythologies. Faulks is a thoughtful biographer, and his narrative style, despite some redundancies, hooks the reader for the duration. What surprised me is that his other books appear to be slushy romantic novels, albeit well-written ones. Even if you pass on them (as I did), this book is well worth reading and a good deal more hard-headed and analytical than his other titles might suggest. (One caveat: everyone who glances at the title seems to think Shelley, Keats, etc., a mistake facilitated by the cover of the imported paperback I read. The fault seems to have been remedied in part by a new cover on the latest edition.)
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Fatal Englishman: Three Short Lives 9 Mar 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Sebastian Faulks is such a lovely writer - it's a joy to read whatever he writes! This little book of three short stories of young men who all died young is an absorbing read, each one different, but each one carrying the energy of the 'moth to the flame' in the way he lived his life.
I enjoyed it - particularly the astonishingly brave fighter pilot who stays in my memory after reading several more books.
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Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Three long essays. I felt that there was not enough good information for the length of book. Of interest to those alive in the middle of the last century.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent title - great book 10 Jun 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
True Sebastian Faulks dissecting the tragic lives of three short but brilliant lives with all his literary flair. I knew about one of the three lives, but had never even heard of the other two and this book has left me desperate for more. The links between the three men, none of whom knew each other, was poignant.

I'm sorry to have finished it.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended
Three deep and meaningful narratives by a master novelist. I like historical novels and here Faulks offers us a trio to really enrich one's appreciation of our own times and lives... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Justine
5.0 out of 5 stars second time round
I read and enjoyed this book some years ago, and seized the chance when I saw it on Amazon to buy and enjoy again. I certainly did, as it portrays ways of life that are gone.
Published 3 months ago by pamela maclennan
5.0 out of 5 stars Enjoy Villefranche before the Stones rolled in
Enjoyed Keith Richard's excellent autobiography? Read how they had fun in Villefranche before the Stones ever rolled; the foolishness of a Spitfire ace; and, best of all, the... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Deadhead Giles
4.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating study
Sebastian Faulks is a favourite author of mine - and this book certainly doesn't disappoint. I did not know of any of the three men whose histories are described before reading... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Anne Lovell
5.0 out of 5 stars waste? Or living life to the full
This book looks at some promising Englishmen who lived life to the full, with passion and ambition and who all died young. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Mr. D. P. Jay
4.0 out of 5 stars Cheap and cheerful
This book cost less than the price of postage usually does, so I can't complain. The copy was tatty but serviceable, and much as expected for the price.
Published 13 months ago by A. M. Harvey Williams
5.0 out of 5 stars another great book from a great writer
spell b inding like all his works some sad parts but well worth the read always enjoyable looking out for more
Published 16 months ago by Julia Morgan
5.0 out of 5 stars The Fatal Englishman: Three short lives
I had read this book from our local library and wanted my own copy as it is so well written and is an absorbing subject. I found it an excellent read.
Published on 9 July 2012 by peter hibbin
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