A Week In December
- Publication Date:
- 02 September 2010
- Modern & Contemporary
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Sebastian Faulks elegant "A Week in December" is fashioned after George Kaufman-Edna Ferber's brillant play "Dinner at Eight". A formal dinner party is planned for wealthy and privileged coupled and individual guests. Each guest has a detailed back story. The most disturbing of the guests are the Veals. One John Veals, the head of a hedge fund company, ruthlessly engineers out of thin air the downfall of a multi-billion dollar bank. The bank has done nothing wrong and thousands of people will be out of work but that is of no concern to Veals. Another toxic guest is a poisonous book critic who sets out to destroy every contemporary writer whose work is unlucky enough to cross his desk. Other guests include an endearing magnate Pakistani couple with a confused son caught up in a terrorist plot. I was impressed by the range of research Mr. Faulks gathered to craft his story. He handled deftly with humor the subjects of Islam, hedge fund management, general finance, terrorism, wealth, greed, and biographical criticism. Good job.
This is a witty commentary upon the delusions that threaten the unwary in modern city life. A prime target is a nerdy hedge fund manager who has become obsessed with profiting from the financial catastrophes of 2008, irrespective of the consequences for others in real life. He is so self-indulgent with his time, he is unaware that his son is also becoming deluded: with the self-abuse of drug taking. Other characters include a young man from a nominally muslim family who becomes deluded into believing that it is his duty to explode a bomb in a hospital, and a tube driver whose social life has become lost in the computer world of virtual reality. Despite the obvious inuendo, I only found the word 'masturbation' used once. I suggest that the book deserves careful and reflective reading for the full humour of Faulks to be properly appreciated. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
This is a very well-crafted novel, effortlessly weaving storylines of headline-calibre timeliness with thought-provoking characterizations. Using the framework of a single week, the novel's pace is brisk, though neither the plot nor the character development seem rushed. Guests invited to an elegant dinner party have deliciously eclectic stories, from John Veals the calculating hedge-fund billionaire who is orchestrating a massive complex trade that might ruin a mjor financial institution,and whose son Finbar survives an overdose crisis, to 'Knocker' al-Rashid, the Indian condiment king who is about to receive a medal from the queen, and whose son Hassan gets involved with a radical Islamic terrorist plot; to Gabriel Norwood the struggling young barrister who falls in love with his client Jenni, an Underground train operator who is addicted to an online role-playing game. Along the way there is a wealth of other characters whose stories ingeniously, and often deliciously, intertwine. Spike Borowski, a Polish footballer newly transferred to a London club, acquires a girlfriend who happens to have been an Internet porn model familiar to both Veals and Hassan in their own stories. R. Tranter, a frustrated writer and literary critic, shows up as the moderator of a book group attended by the party hostess, but also as a tutor for Knocker as he prepares for his investiture ceremony.The major plot lines of Veals, Finbar and Hassan carry genuine suspense; there is romance in the story of Gabriel and Jenni; and there are some nicely humorous bits sprinkled throughout. Faulks' depictions of financial markets, terrorist recruiting, and the operation of the Underground show dedicated research and an ability to bring that learning to life in his characters. One wonders how much research was needed for the story of R. Tranter, who agonizes through the nomination and award of a literary award, the Pizza Place Prize (no slight tongue in cheek there). It would be no surpise if this novel added to his experience with award winning.
I almost didn't expect to like this. I had struggled at first to 'get into' other books that Sebastian Faulks had written and most of the reviews on this book were decidedly neutral. Having said that, I chose to read it anyway, and I'm very glad I did. I found the satirical element very effective and the way in which aspects of normal modern life, such as Facebook, Second Life and Big Brother, were distorted and thinly disguised gave the book an almost dystopian atmosphere. It also served, I felt, to distance the readers themselves from reality, just as the characters mostly were. Only we, the readers, didn't have a shadowy unlit cyclist to jolt us to our senses, but the often uncomfortable realisation of how close to reality this fiction really was.
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