- Series: Small Change (Book 1)
- Paperback: 320 pages
- Publisher: Tor Books; First edition (March 12, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0765323133
- ISBN-13: 978-0765323132
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 84 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #480,831 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Farthing: A Story of a World that Could Have Been (Small Change) Paperback – March 12, 2013
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“If Le Carré scares you, try Jo Walton. Of course her brilliant story of a democracy selling itself out to fascism sixty years ago is just a mystery, just a thriller, just a fantasy--of course we know nothing like that could happen now. Don't we?” ―Ursula K. Le Guin
“Stunningly powerful…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.” ―Publishers Weekly, starred review
“Amazing… One of the most compelling and chilling books of the year.” ―RT Book Reviews
“A subversive, trenchant and simultaneously dark and light piece of speculative fiction. Can I get an amen? …The parallels between her Britain and today's climate are never didactic and always effective. It's also a book about husbands and wives, and about class and sex. It is quite an achievement, brothers and sisters. Hallelujah.” ―Bookslut
“A stiff-upper-lip whodunit boasting political intrigue and uncomfortable truths about anti-Semitism.” ―Entertainment Weekly
“Walton realizes an all-too-convincing alternate world in which the Third Reich but not its spirit was stopped at the English Channel. The characters are highly plausible, and in every aspect from the petty snobbery hampering the inspector to the we-don't-do-that-here conclusion, the plot encourages warily reconsidering the daily news.” ―Booklist
“A beautifully-written alternate history thriller by World Fantasy Award-winner Jo Walton, Farthing is a smart, convincing tale of a country's slide into fascism that's sure to entertain casual and genre readers alike.” ―Cinescope
From the Back Cover
Praise for "Farthing"
"If Le Carre scares you, try Jo Walton. Of course her brilliant story of a democracy selling itself out to fascism sixty years ago is just a mystery, just a thriller, just a fantasy--of course we know nothing like that could happen now. Don't we?"
--Ursula K. Le Guin
"It really is one of those books that succeeds in almost too many ways to count. It's a great, engaging read, and sharp as a knife. The most meaningful parahistorical novel I've come across in a long time, succinct and rivetingly readable."
--Robert Charles Wilson
""Farthing" starts out as a cozy period house party mystery, becomes a brilliant alternate history yarn, and at last reveals itself to be a chilling political thriller. It's smart, riveting, and deeply moving. Once you start reading, don't plan to put it down."
"A wonderful book, simultaneously a gripping mystery and a harrowing cautionary tale. Walton's credible--and entirely convincing--alternative history becomes a terrifying meditation on class, power, and persecution."
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Against this background, the aristocratic, politically powerful Farthing set comes together for a country weekend. The daughter of one of the couples, Lucy Kahn, is deeply in love and happily married to David, a Jewish man, so she’s surprised that her parents have invited them to join this gathering at her old family home. If it was up to her they’d skip it, she doesn’t like this group and they see her as a race traitor, but David thinks the invitation is a gesture of reconciliation so they go. But when they wake up the first morning they discover that a powerful politician has been murdered in his bed, and it quickly becomes clear that whoever did this is trying to frame David.
The story alternates between two very different voices. Lucy’s chapters chat to readers in the first person, while the point of view of Inspector Carmichael, sent by Scotland Yard to investigate the crime, is told through the third person. Carmichael is a principled, thoughtful man who has secrets of his own--he’s a homosexual. Though he’s working diligently to uncover the truth, he’s being pressured by his superiors to just arrest David and close the case.
Jo Walton’s versatility amazes me. The first books I read by her involved a simulation of Plato’s Republic, set up by the goddess Athena on the ancient island of Atlantis, but this is obviously a very different book, and she’s written it from two highly contrasting points of view. Tightly plotted, the tension builds quickly and continuously in Farthing, so by the time I was 80% in my heart was pounding and the book was impossible for me to put down. It’s the first book in a trilogy that I look forward to continuing once my adrenaline comes back down to normal levels.
It’s 1949. Eight years earlier, Rudolf Hess had made his way to the United Kingdom to offer a peace settlement — and a British Cabinet member known as Lord Thirkie followed up with a flight to Berlin to meet Hitler personally. His mission led to a quick agreement in the spring of 1941, before Hitler’s planned invasion of the USSR and nearly a year before the USA would have entered the war. Nazi Germany, now unchallenged in the West, occupies the Continent from Gibraltar to Kiev, as fighting rages on between the Third Reich and the Soviet Union — eight years after the invasion.
In Britain, the effects of the peace have been profound. Anti-Semitism reigns, enthusiastically promoted by the country’s leading newspapers. Winston Churchill has been voted out of office and replaced, not with a Socialist, but with another Conservative. With elections looming again, the question on everyone’s mind is whether Lord Thirkie’s circle — a tightly knit cabal of titled Right-Wingers known as the Farthing Set — will capture 10 Downing Street. Even before the election, they’re championing a bill in Parliament that would allow only university graduates to vote.
Surrounded by a battalion of servants, Lord Thirkie and his “set” are gathered for a country weekend at the country home of Lord and Lady Eversley, located near a village that gives the Farthing Set its name. Suddenly one night Lord Thirkie is murdered — and suspicion points to a Jewish banker married to Lucy, the hosts’ rebellious daughter.
Farthing tells the tale of the investigation undertaken by Inspector Carmichael and Sergeant Royston of Scotland Yard. In alternating chapters, we view the action through the eyes of Lucy and the Inspector. The plot appears to be a straightforward drawing-room whodunit — but it’s not.
If you enjoy reading English murder mysteries — or if you’re simply attracted to the alternate history, as I was — you’re likely to love this book.