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review 2018-02-01 23:51
The Protective Nature of Imperfect Memories...
Where My Heart Used to Beat - Sebastian Faulks

I am a self-confessed admirer of Sebastian Faulks and any additions to an already impressive body of work are typically to be savoured. For me, the author has consistently delivered novels that are both interesting and evincing a silky use of language, but two themes have repeatedly captured Faulks’ imagination. Indeed, he excels at books involving wartime experiences – WW1 or WW2 (think ‘Birdsong’ or ‘Charlotte Gray’) and mental illness (think ‘Human Traces’ or ‘Engleby’). What these themes tend to have in common is the prospect of turmoil for the characters involved, elements of unpredictability for the plot and untidy conclusions – the legacy of both can be far-reaching. It is also true that these two themes can profoundly define individual lives and, in the case of the world wars, whole generations. In ‘Where my heart used to beat’ Faulks has created (almost inevitably) a tale that deftly merges these themes and brings together two survivors of their respective generations’ global conflict, bound by the shared curiosity and insights of trained psychiatrists.


The British psych’ is introduced first. In New York for a medical conference, he uses his friend’s flat to use a prostitute, before hurriedly leaving for his home in London. This is a peculiar opening, which reveals much about the character, very quickly, including an ongoing affair with ‘Annalisa’, but without naming Robert Hendricks, until he takes his messages off the ansaphone in his London flat. Before the end of the opening chapter though, he’s also had an argument with his aforementioned girlfriend and feels quite alone. This struck me as a really clever means to sketch out this central character and in a sense prepare the canvas for the layering of colours to follow. Still, Hendricks’ assertion that, “I was an habitué of loneliness, which was in any case the underlying condition of mankind from which the little alliances and dependencies we make are only a diversion.” alludes to the complex psyche of the man and the torturous nature of his life’s experiences.


Among the letters awaiting Hendricks’ return is one from the unknown Alexander Pereira, who explains that he knew Hendricks’ father (he died just before Armistice Day, when Robert was just two) and invites him to stay at his island home off the coast of Toulon. Pereira is familiar with Hendricks’ acclaimed book and offers him a job collating his memoir, but over time the two develop a relationship in which they foster mutual help, without any progress on the older man’s book. Instead, at times the pair seem to be indulging in reciprocal counselling, each divesting himself of historical baggage. We discover, for example that Hendrick’s tragic war-time love affair, while recuperating from wounds sustained in battle in Italy, proved every bit as debilitating as the physical injuries. Yet, while both men are struggling with the burden of aspects of their respective pasts, their professional insights into the working of memory and emotions cannot shield them, but they are able to bare their vulnerability and over time work towards a truce with their troubled consciences.


Along the way, the author provides much food for thought for the reader and suggests limitations for rationality in the life of men. Love, Hendricks asserts has similarities to drug addiction. It is the “only emotion we granted the power to change our lives; no other feeling – if by ‘feeling’ we meant the release of unruly chemicals in the brain – was allowed to sit in judgement bedside our reason and our intellect.” Moreover, Pereira argues that we cannot necessarily rely on the mercurial nature of human memory either, since “a man’s life is not made up of things that happened, but by his memory of them and the way in which he remembers.” Our capacity to repress memories and fashion self-protection is fascinating, but for the two central characters it seems likely that a diagnosis of PTSD would offer the most compelling explanation in contemporary psychiatry. Still, the reshaping of the men’s respective burdens to something more bearable is an interesting journey and perhaps reinforces the notion that only at our most vulnerable, at our most human, can we be truly alive and know that our heart is beating. This is not my favourite book from Faulks, but worth the effort and I think may bear re-reading for some of the subtle nuances.

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review 2017-02-19 18:44
Sebastian Faulks takes some P.G tips
Jeeves and the Wedding Bells - Sebastian Faulks,Julian Rhind-Tutt

Sub-titled "a homage to P.G. Wodehouse", as a lifelong fan of the late,great man one can imagine that it must have been both an honour and a distinct challenge for Sebastian Faulks, to be invited by the Wodehouse estate to write a new Jeeves and Wooster novel. No pressure....though given that Faulks has similarly delivered a new James Bond novel (see my review of "Devil May Care") in the style of Ian Fleming, one cannot doubt the chameleonic qualities of this fine contemporary writer. Still, as a longstanding fan of Wodehouse myself, I also came at this book with a certain degree of trepidation and a wistful hope for more than a pale imitation of a Wodehouse original. I needn't have worried. Faulks has successfully woven the classic ingredients into a wonderfully comic plot, which sees Bertie and Jeeves revisit a glorious heyday. Indeed, if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, there can be no finer accolade than to suggest this belated addition to the catalogue of J&W stories sits very comfortably alongside the originals, with deft brushstrokes that so clearly simulate the master. 

 

Since the TV series, in my imagination, Stephen Fry and Hugh Lawrie inevitably play the starring roles and the dialogue is crafted to fit their honeyed tones seamlessly. However, it is the quintessentially English nature of the farce, threaded through the frailties of the upper classes, which provides such a familiar platform for the many slapstick moments. The affable Bertie Wooster, big of heart, but none too bright, chaperoned by his patient, cerebrally-gifted manservant, who navigates through the choppy waters his master instinctively seems to steer towards. This book is stuffed with laugh-out-loud moments, which draw unashamedly on the antics of the Drones Club and references to familiar friends of old (Stinker Pinker, Boko Fittleworth, Bingo Little, Aunt Agatha, etc). Only the role swap at the core of this new tale breaks new ground with predictably hilarious consequences. If ever there was a book to brighten the cold winter evenings, this is it. Full credit to Mr Faulks for doing P.G. fans proud!

 

The shelf picture gives the impression that I ventured into the audio book, though only because the book cover was not an option in the drop-down. This book definitely is one for my actual shelf and one I expect to return to.  

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review 2017-01-08 23:20
Tribute to Ian Fleming
Devil May Care - Mark Stutzman,Rodrigo Corral,Sebastian Faulks

The 100th anniversary of the birth of  Ian Fleming is as good a reason as any for commissioning a 'continuation novel' for his most famous creation - James Bond. And who better to write it than one of the most popular British authors of the contemporary crop, Sebastian Faulks? As an avid Faulks fan, it was an intriguing thought, but one not without risk for this most eponymous of spy franchises and perhaps also for the author. Though I needn't have worried. As early as the opening chapter, the reassuring velvety panache of Faulks was grafted onto the gritty style of Fleming, in a typically grisly, action-packed episode.

A global threat posited by a maniacal power broker bent on the destruction of west,  in particular this time the UK, the 'baddie' is strikingly familiar, right down to a physical deformity and a penchant for cruelty, which in due course must surely get its comeuppance.

Also present, the romantic entanglement with a beautiful, tragic woman, which is as much a necessity for Bond, as his trusty Walther PPK. 

A light read, the book moves along at a break-neck pace and is unadulterated escapism, but worthy of one of the nation's favourite literary heroes and we continue to be lucky to have him.

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review 2017-01-02 00:00
Bitten: A Vampire Blood Courtesans Romance
Bitten: A Vampire Blood Courtesans Romance - Kim Faulks,Michelle Fox I absolutely love this series and this book did only more to inspire that love! Looking forward the others I've already pre ordered :)
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review 2016-09-23 22:28
A Novel or a Series of Short Stories?
A Possible Life: A Novel in Five Love Stories - Sebastian Faulks

I am a great fan of Sebastian Faulks work. Although we will all form attachments to particular books, he rarely disappoints and within the body of his work he has set the bar wonderfully high. However, as a 'novel in five parts', I'm not sure 'A Possible Life' works. The writing is superbly crafted and the sweep of the book is clearly ambitious, but seems most effective as five short stories. Certainly, for me the 'novel' is not greater than the sum of its parts, which is disappointing, but should not detract from the quality of the writing, which is at times sumptuous. I intend to read it again, in case I am doing the book an injustice, but I would encourage anyone to make the effort, in any case.

Source: www.goodreads.com/review/show/1521144712
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