Friday, December 30, 2011

A Week in December by Sebastian Faulks .

The rear cover of this books states...

London, the week before Christmas, 2007. Seven wintry days to track the lives of seven 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 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, and the group is forced, one by one, to confront the true nature of the world they inhabit.

...This all sounds so very good but sadly it is NOT. Sebastian is not good at telling a story. The plot is shallow. You hope it will pick up or be different but it just continues to disappoint. Sebastian tries and teases by suggesting a plot where everything joins up in a climax that may involve a mystery cyclist but those are just distractions in this shallow and badly told story. A Week in December leads you to think there would be an explosive ending - it does not, it peters out into a sob.

I disliked the structure of this novel as it kept moving between the seven central characters. This switching loses the focus of this novel. I did however like the depth of each character, with their extensive thoughts and life experiences. But the workings of the hedge fund manager and financial systems may be out of scope to the average reader. The contributions of the book-reviewer in this book were good and entertaining. Overall I had little empathy for the characters. A Week in December is not a thriller or a drama. It is a social study that does not shock or excite the reader. Sebastian's writing is clear and polished, with a lot of class. There is some satire that is mildly amusing. For example on page 31...

John and his colleagues, with whom she was occasionally obliged to dine, didn't even look at the menu. They'd summon the waiter and tell him what they wanted.
'Right, we'll start with a plate of ribs in the middle of the table here. Then I want carpaccio of beef with a thin mustard sauce. What? No, I'm not interested in that. I want it very thin, with Dijon mustard in the sauce and a few green leaves, maybe rocket. Then I want roast chicken. No, I don't want coq au vin. I want plain roast chicken, lots of salt on the skin, roast potatoes, not small ones, proper size and cauliflower cheese. That's it. OK? And some gravy. No, not fucking jus. Gravy. And my friend will have a cheeseburger.'
'Sir, we do not have-'
'Yes, you do. You have filet mignon. Mince it up. Get a bun. You have a cheeseboard here. Look. It says here, £5 supplement! Get a slice off it. You can do it. It's what you do.'
It was worse when the heads of American banks were with him. Even when one of them had been persuaded to try something that was actually on the menu he would change his mind after it had been delivered and send it away again. 'Just bring me some clams.' 'Sorry, sir, we have no-' 'Here's £50. Go and buy some.'

...Another example really made me smile, it was on page 34...

In April 2006, he fired his head of Compliance, a Scot called William Murray. In theory, such a person was meant to ensure that every deal made by the fund 'complied' strictly with the rules laid down by the regulators. The word, however, lent itself to jokes; Steve Godley suggested that Murray had been fired for not being 'compliant' enough. In the push-pull dealings with Veals, Murray had pulled too hard: he seemed to have forgotten that it was Veals and not the FSA who paid his salary. The purpose of a compliance officer, in Veals's view, was to facilitate and to warn, in that order. If necessary, the third duty was to look the other way.

...Laughing out loud! This should ring a loud bell with all drivers of buses, coaches and lorries here in the UK.

A Week in December does not describe current day urban life in Britain very well at all. That award should go to Cross Dressed to Kill by Andrew Lucas , a far, far better book about British society today. A Week in December was written in 2009 and has 390 pages. This novel is a disappointment, I think it is poor and fails as a book. I shall vote it only two stars on Good Reads as I do not think other people should bother to buy a copy.
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