Top critical review
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An enjoyable read....on the whole!
on 16 October 2014
“Farthing” by Jo Walton is the first part of a trilogy set in post war Britain. However, this is not Britain as we know it. Jo Walton has created an alternative history - one in which peace was made with Hitler in the early 1940s. The book is set in the late 40s and starts out as a fairly standard murder mystery, featuring a country house called Farthings, a powerful group of people, known as the Farthing Set and a Scotland Yard Inspector, named Carmichael. Thrown into this mix is a newly married, controversial couple named Lucy and David Kahn. Lucy is the daughter of the landed gentry who own the house and her marriage to Jewish banker, David Kahn, has caused much consternation.
The story develops as murder mysteries do, but then the author brings a darker tone to the novel. There is a political shake up, which results in a new Prime Minister, who plans to tighten up on laws. These new measures are likely to impact on the Jewish population and any other people who speak against the government.
To say more about the plot would reveal too much of the story, but I can say that I found the setting to be convincing. I did feel that the characters lacked some depth, but enjoyed the little details about their attitudes, which I felt were authentic.
However, there was one point that annoyed me so much that I nearly gave up on the book! This may seem pedantic, but the farthing, which is referred to throughout the novel, does not have a robin on one of its faces. The bird that was to be found on this very small British coin was the wren. There is also reference in the book to James the First having his head chopped off. This king died in his bed; Charles the First was the decapitated king! It is possible that the author deliberately changed these details, thinking that as her setting is an alternative Britain, this was acceptable. For me, there is more power in using the correct facts where reference is made to earlier times.
Although these details niggled, I have to say that I enjoyed “Farthing”. I wanted to know the outcome of the murder investigation and how it would impact on the lives of those involved. I have the other two novels in the trilogy and will be reading them, as I’m intrigued to know how this “different” Britain will develop over time.