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A Possible Life
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on 10 March 2014
Much of the criticism of Faulks’s most recent offering is founded on the observation that it is a collection of short stories rather than a coherent novel. I disagree. The five stories here accrete like the five human senses uniting in the novel’s fictitious ‘Glockner’s Isthmus’ to create a compelling commentary on human consciousness, guilt, bravery, weakness and brilliance. This Gestaltist approach is technically challenging but ultimately rewarding in offering an insight into the human condition that is far reaching.

The author cleverly creates coherence between the stories by cross referencing places objects and characters. In so doing ‘A possible Life’ stands as a unique novel which contrasts the permanence of places and objects with the transience of human existence and in particular the fragile nature of a single human life,

Faulks investigates some profound notions here: the nature of human consciousness, immortality, and the poetic versus the prosaic. However the narrative excels at portraying the lives of different human beings in different places at different times and finding commonality- the defining features of what makes us self aware beings.

Thus successive protagonists in time and space are faced with difficult choices, lives that might have been, regrets, and guilt. We are repeatedly reminded of humanity’s brilliance, creativity, resilience and courage but also its selfishness, lack of commitment and ability to betray and hurt those we love.

As one character observes: ‘accepting that we are no more than recycled matter does not take away the aching of the heart’. Such is the price of sentience and awareness of our own mortality.
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on 12 December 2012
Having purchased this book as a book rather than on my kindle, so that I could pass it on to friends, etc. It was so disappointing that I would not waste their time.
Having been a great fan of Sebastian Faulks over many years and read everything, I was stunned he would attempt such drivel. Five short stories, supposedly sending the reader a life message but none of them good or certainly not even able to record their content a week after I have finished it. Charlote Grey was good. Human Traces excellent. Having said those two, nothing has come anywhere near to Birdsong. His James Bond novel was poor, so what has gone wrong with this once great writer. Better to have writers block than turn out this stuff. Sorry but other friends who bought, also feel the same as me. A. Fitzpatrick, Solihull.
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on 27 October 2013
These loosly joined novellas make for a depressing read. While Faulks is a master story teller at times, here he misses either to skewer the period and setting or produce characters this reader much cared about. It wasn't obvious to me what had been gained by moving across the centuries or by introducing a new set of characters with each fresh tale. The structure seemed clumsily contrived to demonstrate E.M. Forster's theme of 'Only Connect' but without any warmth, compassion or humour. The prose style is deliberately sparse and unemotional.
When I finished the book I was reminded of the novellas of Flaubert and how he reveals the greatness of the human spirit and the power of love without sentimentalitiy or highly coloured writing. Put 'A Simple Heart' against Faulks tale of a French servant girl, and spot the difference.
So, I was disappointed, and felt the opposite of uplifted after reading these tales of the human spirit. Maybe that was Faulks' intention - but it doesn't make for a rewarding read.
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on 1 December 2016
Read over a long period.The book comprises 5 novellas really. Some are downright miserable, with little to offer to compensate for that, but the ones with a more contemporary setting are better. Connections between the novellas? I could not see anything.
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on 26 August 2013
I have long been a fan of Sebastian Faulks - I think that Birdsong is one of the best contemporary novels I have ever read - and I have really enjoyed most of his other books, particularly Human Traces and On Green Dolphin Street.
A Possible Life was, naturally, well written and is a profound attempt to examine shared humanity by way of five very different short stories. As short stories, a couple of them work very well indeed, but the book does not cohere and left me feeling very dissatisfied at the end. Perhaps read it as short stories with breaks between each of them? Not a good introduction to Faulks and not to be treated as a novel.
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Just finished reading this wonderful collection from the assured hand of Sebastian Faulks. All the themes are taut and well constructed. If you still enjoy the thrill of reading what is simply the craft of top class English writing, buy anything by this author. The closing piece about a worn pop star is so real you might find a tear in the corner of your eye for the supposed narrator.
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on 15 April 2013
A very disappointing read !! The five strands (chapters are like short stories). There appears to be no link except for one paragraph that appears in both section 3 and 5. It describes a house in France. There is a 200 hundred year time gap however between the events/storyline.
The last chapter could have been sufficient to read !! Ikept expecting something to happen to link the strands together but nothing did.
Not like all the rest of his books which I have had the pleasure to read.
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on 21 June 2016
I have never taken so long to read a Sebastian Faulks book. This was hard work - five disconnected, not very engaging, and unmemorable stories masquerading as a novel. None of them good enough to stand alone and the total not greater than the sum of its parts - what a disappointment.
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on 26 December 2013
I was very impressed by these 5 stories. Any connection between them was not obvious but each one was a 'good read' and enjoyable in its own right and Sebastian Faulkes is certainly a very good writer, able to conjure up an engrossing atmosphere within a few pages. I suppose the lives of the central characters in the stories are all 'possible' - I thought at some point they were meant to illustrate how people can achieve fulfillment in different ways but then I can't really see how the character of Jeanne achieved any sort of fulfillment. So, although I enjoyed reading the stories, it was unclear to me what in the end he was trying to say (assuming that it was meant to have any message).
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on 1 July 2014
..It's not clear from the cover that these are a collection of 5 very different short stories. Warning - The first includes a very graphic
account of a Nazi death camp. I wasn't convinced that this medium is best suited to Sebastian Faulks's talents but if you're a fan of his they're certainly worth a read - you will have your own particular favourite.
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