'A Week in December': Faulks' novel of 7 London lives over 7 days
A review of British author Sebastian Faulks' "A Week in December." The novel attempts to epitomize the current state of London society through a narrative of seven days in seven chapters, featuring seven characters all headed to the same London dinner party.
Special to The Seattle Times
'A Week in December'
by Sebastian Faulks
Doubleday, 400 pp., $27.95
Seven days, seven main characters, seven chapters. That's the setup for British author Sebastian Faulks' "A Week in December," an admirably ambitious attempt at the ultimate urban novel. The opening chapter introduces Faulks' dramatis personae as part of a lengthy guest list for an elite dinner party scheduled for the last week of December 2007. The hosts are Sophia Topping and her husband, Lance, a newly elected Member of Parliament. The group includes representatives of politics, literature, law, finance, religion and sports.
The seven characters are meant to epitomize the current state of London society: John Veals, a scheming hedge-fund manager gambling with OPM (other people's money); Finbar Veals, John's 16-year-old drug-addled son, also addicted to the popular reality TV show "It's Madness"; Gabriel Northwood, a barrister with a dwindling list of clients; R. Tranter, an acerbic book critic with intellectual revenge on his mind; chutney king Farooq "Knocker" al-Rashid, about to receive an OBE from the Queen; his misdirected son, Hassan, budding terrorist-in-training; and Tadeusz "Spike" Borowski, a Polish footballer newly acquired by a London club.
As the novel progresses, it reveals back stories for each of these characters. Unfortunately, many of the stories lack interest and vibrancy. Veals' narrative of a bank crisis sags in unsavory yet dull and repetitious details of his "Fantasy Finance" dealings. His fiscal shenanigans blind him to his son's serious and potentially fatal spinout from drugs. As for Borowski, his only purpose appears to be a connection to Finbar's interest in fantasy sports.
Northwood and Tranter fare better. There is a budding romance between Northwood and his newest client, Jenni Fortune, a young train conductor on the London underground. Tranter's schadenfreude for another writer is the centerpiece for one of the most amusing scenes in the novel, set at an awards ceremony for the Pizza Palace Book Prize. (In England, these sections have stoked speculation about who the real London book reviewer might be.) Tranter is also linked to the chutney king, who hires him to provide a crash course in British literature so that the magnate will feel comfortable talking books with the Queen.
In its effort to demonstrate that "society as a whole ... has so lost its bearing that it was prepared to believe ... that cause and effect could be uncoupled," the novel tries to cover too much territory. As "A Week in December" wobbles toward the last chapter, what should have been a stunning conclusion to a blistering social document fizzles in an anticlimax.
Sam and Sara Lucchese create handmade pasta out of their kitchen-garage adjacent to their Ballard home. Here, they illustrate the final steps in making pappardelle pasta.