Tuesday, March 16, 2010

See You In December...

We know how much I heart the historical novel, correct? So what am I to do when one of my favorite historical novelists decides to enter the twenty-first century? The book in question takes place in 2007, but even I cannot count that as historical. I have to trust. But. What if this means that Sebastian Faulks has given up historical for contemporary? traded in his fountain pen for a Bic? I don't want to borrow trouble. Maybe I should focus on  my hearting A Week in December and  move on.

A Week in December is an ambitious state of the state novel. Faulks uses desperate characters to gage modern, 2007 Great Britain. There are investors, lawyers, a young Scottish Muslim terrorist in training and his Horatio Alger Father, a subway driver with a secret identity, a book reviewer out to destroy a colleague, a stoner whose second addiction is reality TV, the wife of the youngest MP, a professional soccer player, ---deep breath---and more. The more being all the people that the main people have in their own lives. You may need to keep a chart going or if you have recently read any Trollope your name memory will be already at it's peak and you'll be good to go. Faulks goes back and forth between the characters giving each equal weight. Keeping the reader in flux like this also adds to the tension for even the most passive character. Trying to anticipate how all of these plots will finally dovetail and play out is exciting.

The amount of research that went into Week shows. Sometimes a little too much as with the control hungry financier, Veals. This part of the novel had as much information in it about how markets work as The Wall Street Journal. The subway lawsuit had all the bells, whistles, health and safety issues in play but in a more integrated into the storyline manner. So too the seamy side of book reviews is exposed. I have to say having worked with books forever Tranter's career of negative reviews and his wrecking ball pursuit of the posh, up and coming, old school Sedley had me laughing. The seduction of the young student into extremism was very interesting. There were endearing characters as well. For instance the pickle king, Farooq al-Rashid is a joy. His preparing for his investiture with the OBE and wanting to be a worthwhile conversationalist for the Queen was a very sweet crack up. Faulks gives you enough history in the characters to be well invested in their futures.

At it's heart A Week In December is a contemporary version of the 1932 classic play, Dinner at 8 by   George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber. In both works we follow characters that are specific to their careers, stations and time periods in life until at last they all collide at a pretentious dinner party. Week is no worse for having such strong roots. Sebastion Faulks may not have met every single ambition he had for this novel squarely on the head, but he hit most and with good writing, an enlightening perspective and humor. As much as I hate to admit that Faulks has done well in a modern day setting I am forced too. Oh well. There are worse things than being pleasurably absorbed by what you are reading, right?


P.S. Why waste this oppertunity to tell you that as well as reading A Week In December you should also  see the 1934 movie version of Dinner At 8 . It is a wonderful movie. It could not have been better cast.  Of course the dialog is great, not one wasted word. Everyone in it is a joy to watch and professional scene stealers. The one person who stands out the most for me every time I see the movie is   Billie Burke. She does an amazing job of going from frantic, self centered society hostess to loving wife beautifully, Love it.

Thank you Doubleday for the reader's copy of  A Week In December!

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