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Farthing (Small Change) Mass Market Paperback – August 28, 2007

3.9 out of 5 stars 75 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. World Fantasy Award–winner Walton (Tooth and Claw) crosses genres without missing a beat with this stunningly powerful alternative history set in 1949, eight years after Britain agreed to peace with Nazi Germany, leaving Hitler in control of the European continent. A typical gathering at the country estate of Farthing of the power elite who brokered the deal is thrown into turmoil when the main negotiator, Sir James Thirkie, is murdered, with a yellow star pinned to his chest with a dagger. The author deftly alternates perspective between Lucy Kahn, the host's daughter, who has disgraced herself in her family's eyes by marrying a Jew, and Scotland Yard Inspector Peter Carmichael, who quickly suspects that the killer was not a Bolshevik terrorist. But while the whodunit plot is compelling, it's the convincing portrait of a country's incremental slide into fascism that makes this novel a standout. Mainstream readers should be enthralled as well. (Aug.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School–An influential family's weekend party is the stage for murder in post-World War II England. On the first night, a major politician is found dead with a yellow Star of David pinned to his chest with a dagger. Daughter of the house Lucy and her Jewish husband had been surprised to be included. Clearly, their invitation was an obvious setup by someone in the Fascist Farthing Set who is trying to pin the murder on her husband. An investigator from Scotland Yard discerns that in addition to anti-Semitism, the homosexuality of some of the key figures plays a major role in the crime, and the investigator has his own secret that plays out as a significant factor in the outcome of the case. The accurately portrayed civilian setting will make the novel useful for world history classes, and it's a gripping read for teens who like a good English murder mystery. It's comparable to Agatha Christie's novels with substantial social issues and a heavier dose of history thrown in.–Ellen Bell, Amador Valley High School, Pleasanton, CA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: Small Change
  • Mass Market Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books; 1st edition (August 28, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 076535280X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765352804
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 0.9 x 6.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (75 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,986,462 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Richard R. Horton on August 23, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Farthing is a book that I found compulsively readable, but that I dreaded reading. Not because I didn't want to know what happened, but because I knew what happened would be wrenching. It delivered, too -- the novel is powerful, thought-provoking, and deeply sad.

It is set in a country house in England in about 1950. But not our England: in this one a splinter group of the Tories, the Farthing Set, pushed for a separate peace with Hitler in 1941, ending the war. Europe is under Nazi control, and is a hellhole for Jews. The Germans continue to fight with the Soviets. Th US, under President Lindbergh, has remained neutral. And the Farthing Set continue to jockey for power in an increasingly unpleasant, though still green, England.

Lucy Kahn is the daughter of the power behind the scenes of the Farthing Set, Lady Eversley. Lucy and her Jewish husband, David, are at her parents' home for a party prior to a crucial vote, despite Lucy's break with her anti-Semitic parents over her marriage to David. Then a leading Farthing MP is murdered, in a way that seems crudely to suggest Jewish involvement.

Alternating chapters tell of the investigation of the crime by Inspector Carmichael, an intelligent man with a dangerous secret of his own: he is homosexual. (Indeed, so are many of the characters in this book, including several of the Farthing Set.) Carmichael slowly figures out what has really happened, while the powers that be push for David Kahn's arrest, despite the ultimate absurd nature of any claims that he committed the murder. The waters are muddied by a curious attack on Lucy and her father.

As I said, I could see all along that this was leading to a scary resolution, and so it does. Scary, bitter, almost hopeless, and quite moving.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Jo Walton is very good at taking something familiar and putting an unfamiliar, intriguing spin on it. Previously, she's done this with King Arthur (_The King's Peace_ and _The King's Name_), Irish mythology (_The Prize in the Game_), and Victorian society (_Tooth and Claw_). In _Farthing_, she takes the traditional English country mystery, adds in alternate history, and comes up with something new and brilliant.

Lucy Kahn has come to her parents' country house, Farthing, for the weekend, bringing her new husband, David. Their marriage caused a scandal, because David is Jewish, while Lucy is of the British upper class, and Lucy is hoping that the stay with her parents will bring about a reconciliation. Instead, it brings violent death, when one of the other houseguests, who was instrumental in bringing about the 1941 peace with Hitler and Germany, is murdered, under circumstances that seem to implicate David. Soon, Inspector Carmichael of Scotland Yard enters the scene, and he and Lucy follow separate but parallel investigative tracks which lead to shocking conclusions.

The point-of-view alternates between Lucy's first person and Carmichael's third person, both splendidly done. I particularly liked Lucy, who's not quite as scatterbrained as she might initially appear, and who has a marvelous style of speaking and system of allusions (I loved her terms for sexual orientation). Both she and Carmichael are outsiders to some extent, Lucy because she's chosen to marry a Jew, Carmichael because he's a policeman (and for other reasons), and thus both are excellent viewpoints characters, looking from the outside in at different angles.
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Format: Hardcover
This is an English country house murder mystery, extremely well done but basically typical of its kind--except that it's set in 1949 in a Britain that made peace with Nazi Germany in 1941, and is sliding closer and closer to fascism.

The Farthing set, the political clique within the Conservative party that ousted Churchill and negotiated the peace, are currently in partial eclipse, and are holding a retreat at the Eversley family estate. The Eversleys' daughter Lucy, who married a Jewish man over family objections, is surprised and somewhat annoyed that her mother has invited them, or rather, insisted that they attend, but she and her husband are there.

On the first night, Sir James Thirkie, a major leader of the group and the man who actually negotiated the peace, is murdered, with evidence planted to make it appear to uncritical observers that the murder was committed by a Jew.

The story is told in alternating chapters, Lucy's account of her experiences, and the progress of Inspector Carmichael's investigation. It's really beautifully done, the English country house murder and the story of a country sinking into fascism wound around each in a way that works perfectly--the murder investigation winding to a satisfying, nicely complex but fair-to-the-reader resolution, and the political story and its human impact told honestly, convincingly, going where you know it has to go, while never getting as tough to read as it easily could get.

Maybe not the thing to read when you're feeling stressed and need something soothing or distracting, but really excellent. Highly recommended.
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