A Week in December

Sebastian Faulks

A Week in December

London, the week before Christmas, 2007. Over seven days, we follow the lives of seven major characters: a hedge fund manager trying to bring off the biggest trade of his career; a professional footballer recently arrived from Poland; a young lawyer with little work and too much time to speculate; a student who has been led astray by Islamist theory; a hack book-reviewer; a schoolboy hooked on skunk and reality TV; and, a Tube train driver whose Circle Line train joins these and countless other lives together in a daily loop. With daring skill, the novel pieces together the complex patterns and crossings of modern urban life. Greed, the dehumanising effects of the electronic age and the fragmentation of society are some of the themes dealt with in this savagely humorous book. The writing on the wall appears in letters ten feet high, but the characters refuse to see it - and party on as though tomorrow is a dream. 3.5 out of 5 based on 12 reviews
A Week in December

Omniscore:

Classification Fiction
Genre General Fiction
Format Hardback
Pages 352
RRP £18.99
Date of Publication September 2009
ISBN 978-0091794453
Publisher Hutchinson
 

London, the week before Christmas, 2007. Over seven days, we follow the lives of seven major characters: a hedge fund manager trying to bring off the biggest trade of his career; a professional footballer recently arrived from Poland; a young lawyer with little work and too much time to speculate; a student who has been led astray by Islamist theory; a hack book-reviewer; a schoolboy hooked on skunk and reality TV; and, a Tube train driver whose Circle Line train joins these and countless other lives together in a daily loop. With daring skill, the novel pieces together the complex patterns and crossings of modern urban life. Greed, the dehumanising effects of the electronic age and the fragmentation of society are some of the themes dealt with in this savagely humorous book. The writing on the wall appears in letters ten feet high, but the characters refuse to see it - and party on as though tomorrow is a dream.

John Crace's Digested Read - The Guardian

Reviews

The Guardian

Mark Lawson

The Tranter-Sedley plotline warns the reader that reviews of contemporary fiction are generally motivated by jealousy or enmity. But an honest critic must surely conclude that Faulks has correctly identified the novel that needs to be written about these times, but may also have proved that British society is now so various that no single writer can capture all its aspects. However, in honourably failing to depict the entire state of the nation, Faulks has memorably skewered the British literary world.

05/09/2009

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The Literary Review

Suzi Feay

The backstory of Tranter’s feud with the ambitious young Turk Alexander Sedley is extremely funny, but tangential to the story. It seems strange for a wildly successful and famous novelist (and ex-literary editor) to be scoring a few easy points off a hapless hack. It’s also a bit dismaying to find the angry remarks about grammar and teachers first made by the amoral, psychotic Engleby, the antihero of Faulks’s previous novel, recycled here ... Me liked it very much, as Engleby might say.

01/09/2009

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The Observer

Justin Cartwright

Faulks knows the book world and satirises it with brio, but he can give up any hope of winning the Costa Prize after this... Less successful is Faulks's rather plodding analysis of why young men turn to Islam... A Week in December is a little too long, a little too prolix. And yet it survives all this to be a compelling tale of contemporary London.

23/08/2009

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The Spectator

Cressida Connolly

...well-plotted and gripping throughout... Sebastian Faulks is not, I think, interested in producing a roman-a-clef as much as in satirising the way we live now. There are two problems, here. The first is that some of the characters feel rather flat... The second problem is that Faulks’ satirical version is almost too accurate... These, though, are minor gripes. At over 500 pages, the ambition and scope of the book are to be applauded.

26/08/2009

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The Daily Telegraph

Tibor Fischer

The satire is so vicious at times it’s like reading a Tom Sharpe novel and there are dozens of cracking one-liners... Despite its comic élan, the novel is a little uneven. Faulks has probably reached that level of success where no editor will have the temerity to point out weaknesses.

10/09/2009

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The Daily Telegraph

Toby Clements

As an assembly piece, this is perfectly constructed, even down to the appearance of the cyclist without lights who nearly kills them one by one. If there is a suspicion that little of it is exactly new, and for too many pages in a row Faulks’s fulsome research goes unleavened by the skills one traditionally thinks of as a novelist’s, it remains a pleasure to read.

30/09/2009

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The Times

Tim Teeman

Faulks’s most vivid character is the odious John Veals, a hedge-fund manager, who relishes all the money that he makes and power that he quietly exerts. Faulks does not wear his research lightly (there are pages of dense banker backchat), but Veals is brilliantly insidious... Even if we don’t believe that Faulks knows some of his characters as well as others, this is a thoughtful pageturner.

29/08/2009

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Times Literary Supplement

David Horspool

The thematic concern with “virtuality”, while hardly original – William Gibson has spent most of his writing career exploring it – demonstrates instead that Sebastian Faulks is interested in what a work of fiction, rather than a coded version of the real world, can tell us about the way we live now. He has spread himself too thinly in this book to succeed, but it deserves to be read for the exaggerated truths encapsulated by John Veals, “a man alive to the spirit of his time”.

19/08/2009

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The Daily Mail

Stephanie Cross

It's page-turning but patchy satire, and the points Faulks scores are obvious ones. For a state of the pre-crash nation novel, it falls well short of the benchmark set by Amanda Craig's Hearts And Minds, published earlier this year.

10/09/2009

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The Sunday Times

Peter Parker

...the book simply isn’t sharp or funny enough and its targets are too many and too easy... A Week in December is eminently readable, cleverly plotted and (except where it describes the details of complex financial shenanigans) undemanding. Nothing wrong with that; but one occasionally feels that if Faulks had made a few more demands on his readers this disappointing book would have been all the better for it.

30/08/2009

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Standpoint

Louis Amis

Hassan, on the Tube on his way to buy explosives, notices "a black-skinned youth with feet in padded white trainers the size of small boats". If this had been written by Sebastian Faulks 15 years ago, or by a historical novelist 100 years from now, then perhaps there would be some mileage in an observation about black boys' tastes in trainers (or the hilariousness of trainers in general). But no one these days, not even an alienated Islamist, is taken aback by a pair of Nikes. Faulks sees today's London from very far away and only faintly makes it out. His imaginary version of it turns out to be as wooden and unrewarding as the various fantasy worlds and escapist trips he has picked out for condemnation.

01/09/2009

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The Financial Times

Andrew Hill

At times it reads like a mixture of Martin Amis’s London Fields and Ian McEwan’s Saturday. But Faulks is neither as brutally funny as Amis, nor as subtle as McEwan... Faulks does manipulate his cut-out characters to a satisfying conclusion... But the real financial crisis was so deep, its impact so great, and some of its characters and events so vivid – as much recent non-fiction suggests. It deserves a more precise, more savage satire than this.

14/09/2009

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