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The Fatal Englishman: Three Short Lives

3.66  ·  Rating Details  ·  459 Ratings  ·  18 Reviews
In The Fatal Englishman, his first work of nonfiction, Sebastian Faulks explores the lives of three remarkable men. Each had the seeds of greatness; each was a beacon to his generation and left something of value behind; yet each one died tragically young.

Christopher Wood, only twenty-nine when he killed himself, was a painter who lived most of his short life in the beau m
Paperback, 336 pages
Published March 12th 2002 by Vintage (first published 1996)
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Common Reader Catalog Part II
36th out of 91 books — 6 voters
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8th out of 24 books — 2 voters

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Zainab Magdy
May 26, 2009 Zainab Magdy rated it really liked it
Faulks is a brilliant writer, The Fatal Englishman was the first nonfiction book that I read for him and I dont like nonfiction. The book presents the lives of three young English men who died very young and all the pressures laid on them by the society. The book is at times painful but it is very real and raw in Faulks' usual mellow, soft and intense prose.
May 06, 2012 Al rated it really liked it
Sebastian Faulks' triple biography, "The Fatal Englishman," is an engrossing read. By combining three short but incisive bios of three Englishmen from different areas (the arts, wartime aviation, journalism) and different decades of the 20th century, Faulks pulls off a difficult challenge. There are common themes running through the lives of these men; each died early after achieving some prominence in their fields. All three grew up with high expectations for success from teachers, family and f ...more
Dec 01, 2008 Denis rated it really liked it
A riveting study of the English psyche through three mysterious and complex men, and the people that surrounded them. Written with compassion and style by Faulks, who brings his talent as a novelist to this original approach to biography. It's often quite moving, and the men he has chosen to analyze are fascinating characters. That everything is true makes this book even more interesting.
Geraldine O'donnell
Aug 29, 2012 Geraldine O'donnell rated it it was amazing
Brilliant. Excellent choice of subjects. Is there a link between Jeremy and the setting for "on green dolphin street" or am I letting the cold war paranoia take hold? A very scholarly book and too short. Hope the author tries this again.
Deborah J
I don't generally read biography - except that by Lytton Strachey, which is just outrageous gossip - but I happened to come across some paintings by Christopher Wood (one of the subjects of The Fatal Englishman) so off I set.

I was gripped at times, bemused at others. I find it hard to empathise with these men who were either supremely talented, fantastically intelligent, extraordinarily good looking, foolishly brave and generally over-indulged. I learned a few facts, but my problem is that I do
Juan José
Feb 08, 2014 Juan José rated it it was amazing
Three short lives, one great book!!
Apr 26, 2013 Ian rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I’ve now read all of Faulks’ books, except his first, A Trick of the Light, which is impossible to find, and his latest, A Possible Life (which I bought in Waterstones only this last weekend). Birdsong is obviously his best, though I did like Human Traces a lot as well. The Fatal Englishman, however, is non-fiction, and about three men who all died at a relatively young age, though their lives to that point had promised much. The first is Christopher Wood, a talented painter in the 1920s, who fe ...more
Feb 17, 2010 Catherine rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
While the three mini-biographies in this volume were clearly told, I reamin unsure as to why it recieved plaudits. There were some links between the lives and fates of the men that justified putting them together but for me it was nothing special, sorry.

The story of the self-destructive airman was the most powerful - maybe because of it's position at the end it gained strength by being an implicit commentary on the other two lives ... or is that just me trying to be as deep as a more literary r
Jun 05, 2007 Siria rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, biography
The Fatal Englishman is an unusual kind of biography. It traces the lives of three Englishmen - Christopher Wood, Richard Hillary and Jeremy Wolfenden - who shared no connection with one another other than their talent, their ambition, their arrogance, and their early and tragic deaths. Christopher 'Kit' Wood was a painter who moved in some up of the upper echelons of English and French bohemian society in the 1920s; Richard Hillary a fighter pilot in the RAF in the Battle of Britain, who wrote ...more
Sep 30, 2011 Fiona rated it liked it
I cannot say I thoroughly enjoyed this read as it has made me very disquieted & I had to read something else pretty quickly.
I agree with another reviewer that it reflects the society the men grew up in & the problems within it. I already knew something of Christopher Wood as I am a practising artist & have been familiar with a lot of his work since I was an undergraduate in the 1970s. I had heard something of Richard Hillary & his book but I was ignorant about Jeremy Wolfenden t
Nov 26, 2010 Jim rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Not sure about this one. I reached the end and thought “What was the point”? Did I miss it? Three young men who died in their youth, a painter, a war pilot, a spy/journalist/hedonist. Two were homosexual. All are now relatively unknown. I struggled to see further connections. Like I’ve thought before with Faulks, sometimes he writes with an urgency and style that makes the pages fly past, while at other times it’s all so turgid that you wonder how he could bear to sit and write it, never mind re ...more
Tina Todd
Right up my street. Looking into the hearts and minds of 3 individuals. Written almost like 3 novellas.
Nov 08, 2015 Yve-Anne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Three biographical stories about three men who dies young. Apart from the first character, an artist, I had not really heard of the others. Their stories were remarkably similar in many ways; they all seemed to rush head-forward towards their early deaths without much thought. Interesting read.
Wilde Sky
Jul 12, 2011 Wilde Sky rated it it was ok
Three mini-autobiographies of Englishmen (Christopher Wood, Richard Hilary and Jeremy Wolfenden) who died young. From the few details in the book it seems that all of the men had extraordinary, but short, lives.

Unfortunately this book is densely written and very little of the characters of the men comes through, which is a real shame. The book reads like a very long newspaper piece.

Three interesting lives, but a poor book.
Aug 13, 2015 Steve rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mid 3. Though at times intriguing as a collective biography of three young men who tragically had their lives cut short, the book failed to grip this reader. The middle biography about Richard Hillary, a Spitfire pilot during the Second World War, is the glowing exception. Nevertheless, a work of value as a reflection of young men facing the challenges and social expectations of their times.
Mar 26, 2014 Artur rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
These are three stories about young Englishmen who start off very promising and then head for disaster (and death at a very young age). It's very sad, but I'm not sure what I'm supposed to take from that.
Feb 29, 2016 Barry rated it really liked it
All three men are pathetic excuses for a human being but the writing of Faulks, as always, is superb.
May 07, 2009 Amanda rated it it was amazing
Riveting read about three very diverse boys from Blighty. I absolutely loved this book. Thanks Paolo!
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Sebastian Faulks was born in 1953, and grew up in Newbury, the son of a judge and a repertory actress. He attended Wellington College and studied at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, although he didn’t enjoy attending either institution. Cambridge in the 70s was still quite male-dominated, and he says that you had to cycle about 5 miles to meet a girl. He was the first literary editor of “The Independe ...more
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