- Publisher: Random House (2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9780091936815
- ISBN-13: 978-0091936815
- ASIN: 0091936810
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars See all reviews (96 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,391,612 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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A Possible Life Paperback – 2012
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Top Customer Reviews
Throughout Faulks writes gorgeous prose, creating evocative images of familiar landscapes that seem even more vibrant in his hands. The scenes in the Nazi work camp, for instance, are more brutal than previously encountered; the orphanages more realistically produced. The reader can almost smell the outer landscape and feel its heat. He is an amazing writer with an original style. Even the placement of the stories, the order in which they are arranged, is intriguing. They are not chronological, but there is a certain logic. As with Kieslowski's Blue, White and Red movies, or even with his Decalogue, there is a sense in the connections of these stories that can only be fully recognized after completion.
A Possible Life reminded me a little of Edward P Jones' two volumes of linked short stories, All Aunt Hagar's Children and Lost In The City. The links between Jones' stories are subtle and curious; a name might re-appear in a different context, or a location will feature again, but at a different time or with different people. The connections between the five stories in A Possible Life are even less obvious, and reflect Faulks' fascination with what makes us human. Science, consciousness, artistic creativity, families, love and the Holocaust all feature. Only once the book is finished is it possible to reflect on the stories as a collection, and try and make sense of them.
Each story traverses the whole of its subject's life, set in different times and places from 18th century France to mid-21st century Italy. The middle three stories struggled to live up to the emotional and heart-breaking narrative of the first - the stoicism and suffering of a man subject to the horrors of the Second World War - or the re-imagining of the love affair between Joni Mitchell and Graham Nash on which the fifth and final story is loosely based. The first story sets such a high standard, although it certainly has flaws, that the rest were always going to be hard-pressed to follow it. Its strength perhaps explains why I felt such disappointment at turning the page and realising that `Part II' was a completely different story.Read more ›
Of the five stories, the first two were my particular favorites. The first tells the story of Geoffrey in 1939, a young man in England who enters the Diplomatic Service before the start of World War II. A linguist by training and an introvert by nature, Geoffrey finds himself working with an old rival to strengthen the French Resistance and eventually lands in a POW. Others found Geoffrey off putting, but I could understand his coldness and found him to be surprisingly sympathetic.
The second tells us about Billy in 1859. Young Billy is the third of five children in a desperately poor family. At seven years of age, BIlly is sold to a work house that sounds bleak and hopeless. Reminiscent of Oliver Twist, Billy endures brutal teachers, constant hunger and cold, "I wasn't alive, I was only breathing. At night in the bed in the floor I slept. I pulled the blanket right up over my head. I didn't have any thoughts. I didn't know anything to think about. And I didn't dream neither." Patience, luck, and constant effort enable Billy to change his circumstances. As Billy prospers, his life grows complicated - and his story develops.
The next three stories are of women.Read more ›
I found some of these tales moving at times: a man lives through the horror of a Nazi concentration camp in the service of the killers and returns to live out the rest of his years burdened with the immensity of that experience; another man is sent away as a child to a London work house by his parents but never repudiates his obligations to that family as an adult; a woman scientist participates in scientific investigation that proves that humans have no real souls; a peasant woman lives a life of unquestioning service to a loathsome bourgeois family after a profound religious awakening; and a musician becomes the enabler for a self-absorbed singer of prodigious talent at a considerable emotional cost.
But ultimately, their impact and interest are uneven overall. For the most part, these are not characters that you like very much--and you don't get the impression that the author really wants your love as much as perhaps your respect for them. These are people thrust into situations and relationships that are painful or tedious or bewildering.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Faulks seems to be experimenting more and more. He uses contrasting styles in the 'Parts'..... and yes, each style fits the period he is writing about - that is clever. Read morePublished 2 months ago by duncanpell
The only reason I gave this novel two stars rather than one, is that I finished the book--barely. I wanted to find a thread between one story and the next, but the only one I... Read morePublished 5 months ago by T. K. Nelson
Five rather tenuously connected stories, each set in a different time period and location, and each with a distinct voice, make up this "novel. Read morePublished 8 months ago by Nica
My daughter needed this for a college class - much better pricing than on campusPublished 14 months ago by Wendy G.
Started out very promising with two fine parts and went progressively downhill from there. The fifth and final section is just plain awful and I had to quit 20 pages from the end.Published 17 months ago by O. Lund