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59 of 61 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Life as it is - plain, human, real - the finest kind of art
This is quite simply one of the most poignant and reflective books I've read, precisely because it lacks the "melodrama" or "plot" that are the pre-requisites of most novels and...which are totally absent in most peoples' lives. Shorn of these constraints it becomes a quite brilliant exploration of a "normal" person: so skilfully written that you are subtly and compelling...
Published on 6 Jun 2003 by nicjaytee

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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 26 set pieces
The 26 chapters of this book are named after places, one for each letter of the alphabet. Moving around in time as well as location, it reads rather like a collection of short stories with a common central character rather than a novel. Rather than being driven by exposition of a plot, each episode is enjoyed as a nicely written set piece.

The writing is good...
Published on 27 Nov 2007 by BookWorm


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59 of 61 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Life as it is - plain, human, real - the finest kind of art, 6 Jun 2003
This review is from: A Fool's Alphabet (Paperback)
This is quite simply one of the most poignant and reflective books I've read, precisely because it lacks the "melodrama" or "plot" that are the pre-requisites of most novels and...which are totally absent in most peoples' lives. Shorn of these constraints it becomes a quite brilliant exploration of a "normal" person: so skilfully written that you are subtly and compelling drawn into it and, by the end, feel you know the central character (Pietro) inside out. Sequenced as a series of "random" snapshots (with each chapter moving backwards & forwards through time, with no obvious structure) its end effect is like looking at a good friend's photo album with the pages mixed-up in some sort of random order. Young to old/old to young; parents to children; hopes to reality, ecstatic infatuation to family life... it's all there: "life as it is - plain, human, real".
Clever, beautifully written and wholly effective this is "art" rather than popular fiction because, having read it, you'll feel that you'll know Pietro for the rest of your life. But... of course, he's not "real", you only want him to be. A rare feat of writing indeed!
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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A thoughtful, well crafted piece of work, 22 May 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: A Fool's Alphabet (Paperback)
This was my second Sebastian Faulks novel (my first was Birdsong), however, I was not disappointed, quite the opposite. This is a book rich in depth - of prose, description and character. Each chapter peels back another layer to unfold the inner Pietro, and forces us to look back at the choices we have made during life and how they have shaped our future.. quite simply a good book.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars an engrossing and enthralling piece of work....., 7 Jan 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: A Fool's Alphabet (Paperback)
I simple adore this book....infact,I have read it again and again and everytime a new dimension, a new thought filters through,just like the sunlight from behind the clouds...yes,it demands concentration and as you ponder over the scattered life that Pietro spent and as you read about what, where and how he felt and thought,not only you discover Pietro but also your ownself!! As John Lennon put it,"Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans"...the desciption of all what happened around Pietro is even more interesting!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Short and sweet., 29 July 2006
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This review is from: A Fool's Alphabet (Paperback)
A Fool's Alphabet is essentially a biography of a half-Italian half-English male, called Pietro. I say 'male' because the biography is in no chronological order and instead, small fragments of Pietro's life are uncovered throughout the book therefore giving Pietro no fixed age. Reading the book, I got the distinct impression that I was experiencing fragments of Pietros memories, and the fact that they are in no order really emphasises this feeling.

The book contains lots of different locations including the Middle-East, Asia and America, and of course the UK and Italy. So, if you like travelling, you will probably enjoy this book as a large proportion of it is based around Pietro's travels.

I have read both Birdsong and Charlotte Gray before this, and they are completely different to this. Buy this if you like Faulks; you might turn out to love it, but it really isn't as bad as some people are making out. At worst, it will turn out to be average.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A well-constructed, absorbing and touching read., 13 Dec 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: A Fool's Alphabet (Paperback)
For some reason this book has never been as feted as Faulks' others - particularly the brilliant Birdsong. However, I found it every bit as compelling, as the story of Pietro's life unfolds in a series of chapters ordered not by time, but alphabetically by place - moving back and forth through the years, slowly sketching in the events and turning points which have created the character. The novel demands a great deal of attention, and repays it with corresponding depth and significance. The reader is drawn to consider the extent to which the chance events of anyone's life are fundamentally formative of their personality, watching Pietro alternately struggling against and following the path he is offered.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 26 set pieces, 27 Nov 2007
By 
BookWorm "BookWorm" (UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: A Fool's Alphabet (Paperback)
The 26 chapters of this book are named after places, one for each letter of the alphabet. Moving around in time as well as location, it reads rather like a collection of short stories with a common central character rather than a novel. Rather than being driven by exposition of a plot, each episode is enjoyed as a nicely written set piece.

The writing is good - Faulks has a style which is elegant and descriptive without being overblown. Some chapters are very strong, for instance the description of office life and the chapter set in Jerusalem. Others were less interesting, although I suspect every reader would have a different preference depending on their own experiences.

It isn't really a very memorable book. I enjoyed the experience of reading it whilst I was actually reading the words, but it is not a work that has made any particular emotional impact on me. That's not to say it isn't a good read, but a book with so little long standing impact cannot, in my opinion, be great.

The writing will be particularly enjoyed by those who love language and word play - there is plenty of exploration on the origin of words, for example. I would also recommend it to those who like short stories, and its themes of 'finding yourself' and mental illness will be of interest to those with experience of these issues. Overall, I suppose I feel ambivalently positive towards the book - it wasn't a waste of time to read, but I wouldn't say it was unmissable.
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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars an excellent read, 4 Jun 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: A Fool's Alphabet (Paperback)
I would recommend this to anyone who enjoyed Birdsong - indeed, if you haven't read Birdsong, read this. The story is well crafted, and superbly told - each chapter jumping to another stage of Pietro's life. The reader is taken through the life of Pietro - the son of an English soldier and an Italian girl. Each chapter reveals more about Pietro, and most also leave questions to be answered, such as "what happened to Laura?". The reader is left satisfied at the end, and yet wanting more.
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars an engrossing and enthralling piece of work....., 7 Jan 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: A Fool's Alphabet (Paperback)
I simply adore this book....infact,I have read it again and again and everytime a new dimension, a new thought filters through,just like the sunlight from behind the clouds...yes,it demands concentration and as you ponder over the scattered life that Pietro spent and as you read about what, where and how he felt and thought,not only you discover Pietro but also your ownself!! As John Lennon put it,"Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans"...the desciption of all what happened around Pietro is even more interesting!
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3.0 out of 5 stars Not one of faults bast books, 3 Mar 2014
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This review is from: A Fool's Alphabet (Kindle Edition)
A book to dip in to rather than a good read. OK if that is what you want but I found it disappointing. Perhaps because I had just finished Birdsong, his greatest book.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Dreadful book - don't waste your time., 28 Jan 2014
By 
W. Osborne (UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: A Fool's Alphabet (Paperback)
I read a book a week at the moment and picked this up second-hand on the strength of Sebastian Faulks' other books. What a load of pretentious nonsense it is! There is a vague story with chapters and even pages that go backwards and forwards decades at a time so you lose track and consequently interest. There are bits of unrelated travel logs from around the world and it was no surprise to have a section devoted to the heating system in a building which had no relevance to anything. I can only suppose the author had to fulfil a commitment to the publisher or that he was deliberately taking readers for a ride. I read it to the end to see if it got any better which it didn't and quickly forgot what the whole thing was about. I followed this by reading Salmon Fishing in the Yemen which is a wonderful, original story. What a relief.
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A Fool's Alphabet by Sebastian Faulks (Hardcover - 16 July 1992)
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