A Week in December
by Sebastian Faulks
A Sunday Telegraph endorsement on the back cover of this novel simply reads: ‘Perfectly constructed . . . a pleasure to read’, and I concur. I loved this book.
A Week in December is pitched as a modern incarnation of a Dickensian state-of-the-nation novel, and that’s precisely what it is. There are seven chapters, one for each of the days of a particular week in December 2007.
The book is not pitched as a pacy thriller, but it enjoys a certain pace through the regular flow of thriller-like connections between its outwardly disparate characters (and there are many more than the seven mentioned on the book’s back cover). The last quarter of the book is thrilling.
The writing is also of such masterful quality that you just want to keep reading. Faulks’s metaphors are sublime: fresh, apt, revealing, varied. And several times he writes about the manner in which one of his eminently real (yet believably outlandish) characters speaks—not something I recall seeing often—and each description is so telling it made me stop and shake my head in awe. Perhaps that’s why I failed to mark any of the passages! Nevermind. Here is a quote that will give you an idea of the quality of insights on offer. It is about the disconnection of an inevitably dissipated love affair.
Everything that made life tolerable derived from a premise that you could expect reward or permanence: that you could build.
Regardless of its core topics, I loved this book and will certainly reread it one day (not something I often do). But I must mention the core topics because, if you are interested in either the ethics of the financial ‘industry’, or the nature of Islam in a modern Western context, then I recommend you read this novel.
Many times I put the book down and reflected on some new learning or insight. Many times I laughed out loud (the book reviewer character is truly hilarious). And I wanted to physically applaud a certain speech given at the end of the book by the sozzled, but clear-thinking Roger.
I take my hat off to Sebastian Faulks, both for his writing and for his courage in writing so forthrightly about topics we simply must become more knowledgeable about if we are to avoid avoidable catastrophes.
Publishing details of the reviewed copy
2010 Vintage (UK paperback)
390 pages plus acknowledgements
First published 2009 in Great Britain by Hutchinson
This post has been modified for republication in simonhertnon.com.