Reviews from Lord Taylor of Glencoe
A Week in December: Sebastian Faulks, December 1—7, 2015
My rating: ♦♦♦◊◊
A Week in December follows the lives of a number of individuals over the course of seven days. It begins with the planning of a dinner party, and ends with that same party taking place.
Ambitious in scope, Faulks attempts to cross-section society with characters that include wealthy hedge fund managers and lawyers, tube drivers, and disillusioned teenagers.
For the most part, he does this very well. Many of the hallmarks of modern culture are there. From Jenni Fortune being more interested in her virtual life on Parallax to Hassan al-Rashid is a young Scottish Muslim drawn to extremism, many contemporary issues are exposed. It doesn’t have the bleakness of Charlie Brooks, or the parody of Elton, but it’s unquestionably a parody of many of the UK’s dearest held, and perhaps most laughable, attitudes.
There are rich back stories for each character that gradually unfold, and the concept of how each person impacts another is always one that fascinates me. Similar in theme but entirely different to execution to 253, Faulks takes a longitudinal view of the interpersonal web that can last a lifetime.
Unfortunately, the continuation of the backstories are less well done. Not very much happens in this particular week in December. Once we have a handle on where the characters have been, there’s an appetite to carry on the tale that isn’t satisfied; instead, more history is regurgitated. In the case of John Veals, so much narrative is wasted on the intricacies of his profession that very little can develop in the plot.
By the second half of the book, you really want to congratulate Faulks on coming up with good characters that capture the modern zeitgeist but ask him to hurry it up a bit. Though there is progression, it’s lost in a myriad of introspection that drags the pace down to a near standstill. A week is a long time in politics, and even longer in this particular December.