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(Small Change #1)

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  4,453 ratings  ·  806 reviews
One summer weekend in 1949 — but not our 1949 — the well-connected "Farthing set", a group of upper-crust English families, enjoy a country retreat. Lucy is a minor daughter in one of those families; her parents were both leading figures in the group that overthrew Churchill and negotiated peace with Herr Hitler eight years before.

Despite her parents' evident disapproval,
Hardcover, 319 pages
Published August 8th 2006 by Tor Books
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3.81  · 
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Dec 03, 2014 rated it liked it
My initial thoughts on reading Farthing by Jo Walton was: why do an alternate history? It’s been done before, and in a lot of ways, what can this quiet, minimalist Welsh author do for this side street sub-genre of the speculative fiction highway?

Phillip K. Dick wrote The Man in the High Castle, published in 1962, where the Axis had won, but here, there has been a stalemate between England and Nazi Germany. Hitler has turned east, and after a peace accord has been signed, he turns on the Russian
Aug 15, 2012 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: um. no one?
Alas, another case of the right reader, wrong book. I went into Farthing with rather high expectations, I confess. I saw Walton has won a couple of awards for other works--including the World Fantasy Award--and this one was nominated for a Nebula and Locus, among others. When this series got several mentions on The Incomparable (produced by 5by5), a podcast series devoted to all things geek sci-fi, I became tempted to try it. When the book arrived from the library, I was surprised to discover it ...more
Nick Fagerlund
Jun 28, 2008 rated it really liked it
A good-natured little cozy mystery about power, privilege, fascism, genocide, evil, and tea.

I lie, it's not good-natured in the slightest. It is, however, good. Go read it.
 Who killed Cock Robin?
I, said the Sparrow
Description: One summer weekend in 1949 — but not our 1949 — the well-connected "Farthing set", a group of upper-crust English families, enjoy a country retreat. Lucy is a minor daughter in one of those families; her parents were both leading figures in the group that overthrew Churchill and negotiated peace with Herr Hitler eight years before.
Despite her parents' evident disapproval, Lucy is married — happily — to a London Jew. It was therefore quite a
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Farthing by Jo Walton is a murder mystery, set in an alternate historical England after "the Farthing Set" brokered a truce with fascism/Hitler rather than trying to win the war. The book has alternating chapters between Lucy (an aristocratic daughter married to the Jewish man being set up to take the fall for the crime in a very anti Jewish Britain) and the inspector.

The murder mystery is really the focus here, and Walton doesn't keep her quirky self entirely out of it, which I found made it a
Sherwood Smith
Walton has a knack for taking a specific story (such as the utterly splendid Tooth and Claw that uses Trollope's Framley Parsonage and crosses it with dragons, getting a sum greater than both parts) or a storyline (like Arthuriana) and crossing it orthogonally so that both are transformed into something altogether different. And yet one can see traces of each source. Being a visual being, I can only compare it to the color prism we used as kids, when we laid the yellow glass circle over the edge ...more
Sep 10, 2010 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Barbara by: Sue
Farthing: a small historical British coin.
Farthings: A group of villages which are home to a privileged group of politically connected people, called "The Farthing Set".

The main thrust of this novel takes place at a weekend retreat of "The Farthing Set", people who are politically well-connected and all with the "proper pedigrees". The time is designated as 1949, which can be somewhat confusing, because this group was allegedly instrumental in a Peace Treaty with Hitler in 1940, but this is afte
Jun 29, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Rob by: Boing Boing
Haiku review:
How can you expect
a happy end in a book
where Hitler still reigns?

Though a bit slower to start than I expected, Farthing was (overall) an outstanding allegory on fascism disguised as an alternate history novel disguised as a murder mystery. By the time you're about one-quarter to one-third of the way through it, you will have trouble putting it down. The attention to the language is excellent (though I found myself pining for a bit of Irvine Welsh-style slang and cockney) and
Dec 10, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everybody!
Thoughts on Jo Walton's Farthing and its sequel Ha'Penny:

Really, these are the most delightful, most exciting, most troubling, most resonant books I've read in a long time. Yes, they're genre fiction, which means they'll be dismissed by some. And what a dreadful shame that would be--I wish these books were talked about as much as some of the things that pass for "literary fiction" these days.

Even at the level of genre, they're interesting: mystery/thriller much inspired by 20s & 30s Golden A
Lubinka Dimitrova
I've been reading up on my sci-fi awards list, and this one was one of my priorities. To be honest, it didn't exactly feel a lot like science fiction, and the alternate history setting, while quite allegorical, did not strike me as absolutely needed and/or overly world shattering - what is described to have happened in Britain is pretty much what happened everywhere else up until Hitler's downfall, and I didn't feel any particular compassion for the Polish cook who saw her "loyal" clients throw ...more
Oct 09, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: sf
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 22, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommended to Jon by: Alternative Wolrd Sep 2010 Selection
I feel mostly dissatisfied after reading Farthing, especially after hearing all the hype. As a mystery, it proved unchallenging. As alternate history, it intrigued me, but left me wanting more depth, more worldbuilding. I could have done without the addition of another second class citizen group, besides the already persecuted Jews.

The writing style reminded me of Agatha Christie (but not as well done) and Dorothy Sayers (again, not quite as well done). I would have preferred a narrative told f
Shannon (Giraffe Days)
On the back cover is a wonderfully written blurb/review from Publishers Weekly - I wish I could write like this! So succinct!

"World Fantasy Award-winner Jo Walton (Tooth and Claw) crosses genres without missing a beat with this stunningly powerful alternative history set in 1949, eight years after Britain agreed to peace with Nazi Germany, leaving Hitler control of the European continent. A typical gethering at the country estate of Farthing of the power elite who brokered the deal is thrown int
Megan Baxter
May 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I got off to a rocky start with Jo Walton. Among Others didn't wow me - I liked it, but the pacing felt off, and keen tension lacking. Since then, however, I've read two of her other books that have simply blown my mind. Tooth and Claw - Victorian society with dragons - made it on to my Top 10 list of last year. And I will not be at all surprised if Farthing joins it there next year.

Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can r
Jo Walton is very good at taking something familiar and putting an unfamiliar, intriguing spin on it. Previously, she's done this with King Arthur (The King's Peace and The King's Name), Irish mythology (The Prize in the Game), and Victorian society as written about by Anthony Trollope (Tooth and Claw). In Farthing, she takes the traditional English country mystery, adds in alternate history, and comes up with something new and brilliant.

Lucy Kahn has come to her parents' country house, Farthing
Sep 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015
Deftly blended, this combination of an alternate world history with an English country house mystery opens in 1949, but it’s not exactly the 1949 or England we know. Eight years earlier a group of conservative, anti-semitic politicians known as the “Farthing set” made peace with Nazi Germany, securing Britain’s borders after most of continental Europe had fallen to Hitler. The Germans continue to fight the Soviets, the American president is isolationist Charles Lindbergh, and the Jews left in Eu ...more
My local library system has three copies of this book, at three different branches. One branch files it under science fiction, one branch files it under fiction. At my library I tracked it down in the mystery section. What is it, then? Like Jasper Fforde's Tuesday Next books, it is set in an alternate England in which certain wars went another way than in real life. Also like Tuesday Next, the protagonist's brother was killed at war, and she married his best friend. That's where the similarity e ...more
Mar 21, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Siria by: Trin
This is such a great read: an old-fashioned country house mystery novel set within an alternate history premise: what if Hess' mission to the UK had succeeded, and Britain and the Reich had made peace in 1941? It's told from the alternating viewpoints of Lucy Eversley Kahn, the daughter of a conservative viscount who's married a Jewish man in spite of the disapproval of her family, and of Inspector Carmichael, the policeman assigned to investigate the murder of the leading politician Sir James T ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This is a novel I will think about for a long time. I simultaneously dreaded the possible conclusion and couldn't stop reading until I got there. The main protagonists are engaging and the alternating first person and third person narrative allows the point of view to shift in an interesting and natural way. The premise, of course, is shocking: Britain in 1949, having made peace with Nazi Germany, sliding into fascism. It is a salutary reminder of how little it takes for the future of a people a ...more
Susanna - Censored by GoodReads
Fascinating. Two-thirds English country-house murder mystery, and one-third creeping terror.
Peter Tillman
Dec 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Outstanding book. I don't have anything substantial to add to Russ Allbery's fine review (below), which led me to finally read Farthing. So, I recommend you first read his piece, and then read Walton's "spare, lean book." 4.5 stars

"Walton adds overtones and political suspense without compromising the pleasures of the initial mystery plot, and the combination had me unwilling to put the book down. I read Farthing straight through in a single day and stayed up to finish it, despite not being a fan
Apr 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone staring down a slippery slope
Recommended to Alan by: A host of factors
You may have heard about the "suck fairy"—perhaps even from Jo Walton herself, as I did. She didn't come up with the term, but she's been one of its more avid exponents. The suck fairy, for those of you who haven't come across that malicious being before, comes along and sucks all of the joy out of revisiting a favorite book (especially one originally encountered in childhood), turning it into something that does not stand up to critical reading. The suck fairy is one of the main reasons why "th ...more
This was a very odd book. I enjoyed most of it, but it was very odd. It took a bit of mental calisthenics to adapt to a 1949 London in which "Old Adolph admired England and had no territorial ambitions across the channel". Because this world's Old Adolph most certainly had all sorts of ambitions across the channel; he was drooling to get into London and execute the entire royal family.

Rather than that straight-forward and outright horror, the horror in this book is … sneakier.

"In May of 1941
Aug 22, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of Murder Mysteries and Alternate History
Shelves: 2008, cross-genre
“Farthing” by Jo Walton is an engaging murder mystery with a style and setting that reminds me of an Agatha Christie novel. The twist is that it’s set in a 1940’s Britain that negotiated a peace treaty with Hitler in 1939 to stop the Blitz. Hitler agreed to leave Britain alone and Britain agreed to let Hitler have the entire European continent. Now, it would be very easy for this alternative history novel to fall into a “Gee, look how different this is!” mode. However, “Farthing” works because i ...more
May 30, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Closeted Scotland Yard inspectors, English girls who marry Jews who used to be their brother's lover
An alt-historical novel set in England, 1949, in a world in which Britain negotiated a "peace with honor" with Germany, ending the war and resulting in a continental Europe controlled by the Nazis, and an England in which everyone breathed a sigh of relief after the bombing stopped and life went back to normal. Except for the Jews.

With that historical backdrop (which is really the only "science fictional" element of the book), Farthing turns into half thriller, half murder mystery. Lucy Kahn, th
Sep 13, 2007 rated it really liked it
A rec from Wychwood, and a goodie. What seems like an ordinary English country house mystery has dark political motivations and implications, as Walton gradually reveals more and more about this alternate 1949, one in a world where Britain made peace with Hitler in early 1941. Brr.

Walton does a great job of showing how ordinary, and in some cases, perfectly decent people can be affected by prejudice and by the removal of certain freedoms. Lucy, who carries half the POV, is a wonderfully-construc
Halfway through rereading this, I stalled for a moment, thinking about the ending. See, the book starts out seeming pretty fun, despite the dark threats in the background: there's plainly loving pastiche of Dorothy L. Sayers going on, and Lucy Kahn's narration is lively and silly. All of that disguises, for a while, how serious the themes turn -- and when they do, when the bottom of Carmichael's life drops out, you'll feel it too. I quoted Dar Williams' song Buzzer when I first reviewed this, an ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 08, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Leseparatist by: kari
Shelves: owned, 2016
In July of 2016, the world seems closer to fascism than I ever remember it being. It seems the aftermath of the Polish elections (when guys wearing 'patriotic' symbols suddenly roam the streets looking for whoever looks different - thankfully there's still fewer of them than pokemon go seekers), of the Brexit vote and of Trump's nomination is a particularly good - or bad - time to read Jo Walton's novel of the UK as it might have been in 1949, after it had made peace with Hitler in 1941 and rais ...more
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Around the Year i...: Farthing, by Jo Walton 4 32 Sep 02, 2019 12:08PM  

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Jo Walton writes science fiction and fantasy novels and reads a lot and eats great food. It worries her slightly that this is so exactly what she always wanted to do when she grew up. She comes from Wales, but lives in Montreal.

Other books in the series

Small Change (3 books)
  • Ha'penny (Small Change, #2)
  • Half a Crown (Small Change, #3)
“Yet I felt he was innocent in a way I was not, that I knew more about evil than he ever could, because he had parents who loved him and wanted the best for him, while I had grown up with Mummy.” 6 likes
“They hang people for murder, and while I didn't exactly like Mummy, she was my mother after all. Though do they hang Viscountesses?” 4 likes
More quotes…