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A Week in December Hardcover – March 9, 2010

3.3 out of 5 stars 78 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Bookmarks Magazine

With clever nods to Charles Dickens, Anthony Trollope, and Tom Wolfe, Faulks combines a sharp eye for detail with an astute understanding of human nature to create a rich, human novel of contemporary manners. Though he provides a captivating account of London, the Los Angeles Times mused that, with a few minor changes, the characters could have been the denizens of any major city, so pervasive are the dilemmas they face. Moreover, critics pointed out that some of Faulks's characters and subplots are "undercooked" (Washington Post) and the glut of financial detail weighs down the narrative. However, it is a testament to Faulks's skill that, despite these missteps, A Week in December is mostly a compelling and sympathetic critique of modern life.

From Booklist

In London, three weeks before Christmas 2007, the lives of several characters intersect and intercut each other. With savage accuracy, the story skewers (and explains) the banking industry and the subprime mortgage crisis while also touching on the evils of Islamic fundamentalism, the British school system, reality TV, role-playing computer games, and critics who delight in giving bad book reviews (a character perhaps added to ensure good book reviews?). Although the financial explanations are much appreciated, they do slow down the plot, as does the rather stereotypical exploration of why a Scottish-bred Muslim would become a fundamentalist terrorist. As in real life, a concept most of the characters have abandoned, Faulks’ best plotlines are those that involve relationships between people. --Marta Segal Block

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; 1 edition (March 9, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385532911
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385532914
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (78 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,227,929 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a great book, well written, poignant, funny. I don't want to go into the details of the plot too much because it will spoil the book for readers. The characters range from a mixed race tube train operator, whose father abandoned her mother when she was 5, to a multibillionaire hedge fund manager, a second generation Pakistani boy wrestling with his identity and flirting with Islamofascism. Also a pompous negative Oxford educated book reviewer and a failed barrister thrown in for good measure. I am a lawyer and can tell you that the picture of the hedgefund manager and his shenanigans is spot on. Sebastian Faulks also wrote Birdsong, another wonderful book. One of the best books I have read in years and I read A LOT.
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Format: Hardcover
Seven days, seven characters, seven lives that nearly intersect but don't quite -- this is the way Sebastian Faulks tells his latest story. The main focus is on a cold character who manages a hedge fund, one of those shadowy capitalists who live only to make money. As with many characters of this ilk, he has a wonderful family that he neglects and no clue about what has real value in his life.

John Veals already has more money than he and 20 clones could spend, but amassing more fortune isn't what drives him. It's beating the system. And since he's been so good at it, the stakes keep getting higher. He gets more sanguine about what his amoral plotting may do to innocent people and the world economy (his deputy feels the same way). Meantime, his teenage son displays his heritage only by becoming more jaded about how much pot he smokes and how much time he spends watching a reality show featuring genuinely mentally ill people. The boy's only other pastime is spent in on online world.

This same online world is fascinating to an Underground train driver. Jenni appears to enjoy her job where it is calm and quiet and she's in control, much as she is in control of her online persona. Not even a sponging brother or a jumper phase her. One of her passengers is a young Muslim man who gradually becomes more disenchanted with the West, even as his father gets ready to be presented to the queen after being named on the latest Honours List. To prepare, he hires a tutor to educate him about literature. He finds the drippiest old toad of a reviewer who clings to the farthest edge of the British literary world.

And so on.

Unlike, say a Kate Atkinson novel where the various storylines connect, these characters barely bump up against each other.
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Format: Hardcover
I have a particular fascination with books that move among multiple points of view, interweaving the characters' mini-plots into one well-crafted whole. Overall, Sebastian Faulks's latest novel, A Week in December, successfully does just that. With tongue firmly in cheek, but also with a good amount of affection for all of his characters, Faulks gives us a well-rounded but satirical view of contemporary London society: the good, the bad, the ugly, the charming, and the misguided.

Two potentially disaster-creating characters--hedge fund owner John Veals and would-be terrorist Hassan al-Rashid--take center stage, and while their stories are indeed fascinating, they push the others' (some of which I found much more interesting) into the background. If the novel has one fault, it may be that there are a few too many threads in the plot, and, as a result, some characters get shorted. I wanted to know more about Jenni Fortune, the book-loving tube conductor who is addicted to an online role-playing game, and her blooming romance with barrister Gabriel Northwood; I wanted to learn more about Gabriel's schizophrenic brother Adam; about the senior al-Rashids; about Spike, the Polish soccer player, and his girlfriend, Olya, who poses for online porn.

The novel also runs the reader through the full emotional gamut. Perhaps the most satisfying moments for me were those that reflect on books, reading, academia, and the world of competitive literary prizes. Faulks is at his satirical best here. As an educator, I was particularly amused by a small incident, the book reviewer R. Tantor being hired (undercover, of course) by a school to write comments on students' papers, a way of appeasing the parents who complained that the teachers themselves couldn't even spell.
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Format: Hardcover
While there are many, many characters in this very timely look at modern London (the modern world in general really, but with London as the example), to me there were only two main tensions in the novel: an imminent terrorist attack and a planned financial maneuver. Both are introduced early on and are not resolved until the last pages of the book. The rest of the book is a glance in to the modern lives of sometimes-interesting-and-sometimes-not characters, many empty to some degree or another, but what kept me reading was the twin journeys of the terrorist and financial attackers. The ending itself is the most haunting I have read in a long time, and worth the read to get to it.

The whole book, for me, was about finding meaning in the emptiness of modern life. All the characters are either looking for meaning in a way, reacting to perceived meaninglessness, or reveling in the meaningless of it all. Reality TV, blogging, social networking sites like MySpace and Second Life, the ridiculously rich, and especially financial traders all take a hit in this book, or at least a swipe. The stock market and those who work in and around it come off the worst, and rightly so if there is any accuracy to Faulk's portrayal of hedge fund managers, banks, etc. From listening to NPR and reading Matt Taibbi's articles in Rolling Stone, I fear Faulks is right on about this stuff.
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