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A Week in December

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A powerful contemporary novel set in London from a master of literary fiction.

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.

Sebastian Faulks probes not only the self-deceptions of this intensely realised group of people, but their hopes and loves as well. As the novel moves to its gripping climax, they are forced, one by one, to confront the true nature of the world they inhabit.

392 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2009

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About the author

Sebastian Faulks

47 books1,869 followers
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 Independent”, and then went on to become deputy editor of “The Sunday Independent”. Sebastian Faulks was awarded the CBE in 2002. He and his family live in London.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,041 reviews
Profile Image for Hanneke.
321 reviews313 followers
July 20, 2022
I really enjoyed this book, although I see here on GR that a lot of people did not care for it. I thought it was an interesting read, presenting us with a wide array of different people. The book is well written, funny and often sad as well. But it is, above all, every informative. I do not recall ever having been given a peek into the mind of a hedge fund manager or a well educated Muslim youth from a rich family who is about to commit a terrorist attack. And what about the vicious book reviewer who even writes anonymus reviews next to his regular newspaper reviews to enjoy that final kill!
Especially, the behaviour and thoughts of the hedge fund manager were very enlightening to me and I think that Faulks obviously knows that shadow world of the ultimate financial psychopats very well, those hedge fund managers and bankers who will eat up people's life long savings at a mouse click. Fascinating and very educational to be presented with such a person who views life as a poker game and who does not even consider the impact of his actions as people are merely an abstraction in his games. It is illustrated perhaps best by the judgement of the wife of the hedge fund manager, a very unhappy but very rich person, as she deliberates on her husband's world: "It followed, Vanessa thought, that people who could flourish here must themselves be, in some profound and personal way, detached. They could have no qualms about the effects of what they did; no cares for collateral impact - although, to do them justice, they did take precautions to minimise the possibility of any contact with reality; indeed the joy of the new products was exactly their magical self-sufficiency, the way they appeared to eliminate the risk of any final reckoning. However, it remained necessary for these people to have a very limited sense of 'the other'; a kind of functional autism was the ideal state of mind." Here's another: "They do it, said Simon Wetherby, because they're bankers. No, said Veals, pushing him into the overheated corridor, they do it because they're a bunch of cunts."

Well, it is obvious that I liked the book. I can only recommend it, but perhaps it's not everyone's cup of tea.
Profile Image for Ruby Barnes.
Author 11 books91 followers
August 25, 2011
This book left me wondering why SF had failed to write a great novel and has me running to my bookshelf to compare his French trilogy and Human Traces. About halfway through A Week in December, a peripheral character (Shahla) spoke and her voice sounded like the first real person in the book. The other characters are caricatures as much as the closely named celebrities, corporations, institutions and consumer products mimic reality with schoolboy quirkiness. Couples have conversations with each other that only serve to tell the reader information, disclosing things that they would have long ago said to each other. The linkages between events and characters are loudly telegraphed and fairly implausible. Specifically (and stop reading here if you don't want to have the not-ending spoilt), almost everyone has a connection to a particular mental hospital. In order to understand what drives the Veals character, readers are treated to an excruciating crash course in financial instruments. The exposition of the Koran and it's comparison with Gabriel's brother's delusions is skirting around a fatwah and clumsily done. In conclusion, there are great threads and potentially interesting characters but it's not elegantly woven and runs close to insulting reader intelligence. As for the bomber having a sugar low and deciding to swap his myriad virgins in the afterlife for an apostate on earth, does that mean untreated diabetes is a good thing?

Yours sincerely.

R. Tranter
Profile Image for Will Ansbacher.
302 reviews86 followers
November 25, 2021
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but for Faulks it is more like 10 thousand. Some authors let a few words or a phrase fill in the scene in your imagination, but not Faulks: his scenes are more like a Hieronymus Bosch or Where’s Waldo ... everything is there in excruciating detail, not just in the present but including all the history that he thinks we need to know to place the 7 short days in context.

We apparently need to know not just the socially-awkward Underground train driver’s ex-boyfriend’s full name, what he did with her 12 or more years ago, what her brother thought of him (the ex), and why there were no more relationships in her life up till now, but the actual moves she made in the virtual reality game that was her substitute for real life. Or a detailed description of the methods the repulsive financier used to acquire his ill-gotten bloated income along with his full email address and partial contents of his website; not just the name of the invented game-show program that the disaffected Islamist teenager from a secular family watched in his bedroom, but including the actual script from the stupid show. It’s the sort of stuff you really, really want to skip over, but can’t in case you miss some detail that is actually relevant to the developing plot, such as it is.

The lives of all these characters intertwine in a way that should lead to a final climactic blowout ... after all, each is just a stereotype and seems to represent a character in a sort of Morality play that is Faulks’s view of what life in London is like today (or rather, four years ago when the financial crash and bombings were hot). But, not to give anything away, the end is quite an anticlimax, and in fact I was rather expecting a disaster of some sort - shouldn't they have all been crushed under the tube train, or been poisoned at the dinner party, or at the least, exposed for the frauds that Faulks clearly thinks they are?

This is a bit sad really, because Faulks is obviously a widely-read and intelligent person. But ... [memo to authors that sadly will never be read], you do the extensive research on financial transactions, the legal system, Islam, the London Underground, or whatever, to give your novel’s characters and actions more credibility – not to deliver bleedin' lectures on those subjects!

I gave it 2* but Goodreads really needs two levels of dislike: it was barely OK and he could have done much, much better, but it was not truly awful.
Profile Image for Ian Mapp.
1,178 reviews37 followers
July 9, 2010
I think this may well have been the first Faulks novel set in modern day that I have read - having gone through the wars, victorian mental health and the 1970s - we now have a state of the nation book.

And what a clever book it is. A the title suggests, spread over 1 week, this details the lives of a number of london residents - the tube driver who has been involved in a suicide, the banker who is trying to manipulate the markets for his own good, the suicide bomber, the barrister, the pickle making asian manufacturer up for a gong and some of their children. All the characters are inter-related somehow and a common theme is their use of technology and litereature. There is a quite a wicked sense of humour here and modern social norms are perverted in names - facebook become Yourplace and so on. There is also a common bicycle rider with no lights who keeps nearly knocking people over - is this boris johnson?

The book did exceptionally well to carry over the format for 380 dense pages - always amusing, interesting and enlightening. Setup a little like a thrilller and you wanted to know where the bombers were going with their story and how it was going to impact the other charaters...as the book pointed out - there are other threats to world safety than islamic terrorists.

See that it had very mixed reviews, but personnaly I have enjoyed all his works - and the modern setting and London being a major character means that I enjoyed it as much as any of his others.

3 reviews1 follower
June 23, 2010
I read a lot, and my reading matter is many and varied, the worst I ever feel about a book is 'It was OK' BUT, I absolutely loathed this book! There was no depth to the characters and they were unreal in the extreme, they felt as though he'd taken every cliche about different social groups/occupations and amalgamated them in to his characters - and the result was weak and unrealistic. The intertwining storylines felt as though they were leading up to a big event which would change the characters lives but the story just fizzled out to nothing. To me it felt as though Faulkes had written a rough draft of a story for home work, hadn't finished it and then handed it in because he couldn't be bothered to do it properly. Although nowhere near as good writers John Grisham or even Jeffrey Archer would have made a much more thrilling story with the same material.
Like other readers I hated the use of made up names for characters and organisations - to me they demonstrated that Faulkes was writing about a culture he didn't really understand - a bit like your Grandad trying to talk like a teenager.
If you want to read a good review of the book, well you only need to read Faulkes own review of Sedgely's book by Tranter... that about sums it up.
Life is short - don't waste precious hours on this book, there are better out there.
Profile Image for Zack Rock.
Author 3 books26 followers
October 3, 2013
Drawing from exhaustive, in-depth research that evidently consisted of half-reading several Wikipedia articles, in A Week in December, novelist Sebastian Faulks boldly takes aim at forces in modern British life he misunderstands but nonetheless despises--including finance, technology, religion, reality TV, and humanity. A humor-free satire, what the book lacks in funny it more than makes up for in full on Islamophobia. You know, bigotry! LAFFS!

While humor might be hard to find, the book's themes and lessons are presented to the reader as clearly as though the characters are saying them out loud. This is because Faulks employs a clever literary device where the characters say the themes and lessons out loud. A sly Faulks indeed!

To be fair, I may have read the wrong book. With its multiple, plodding story arcs--woven together with the literary dexterousness of a kitten in a basket of yarn--I'm pretty sure the book I read was called An Interminable Amount of Time in December.

My favorite part was the punchline of a scene, wherein a deserving author loses a prestigious book award to, get this, a picture book! OMG, can you imagine?! Interesting choice, taking a dig at kid's literature, considering Faulks own paper-thin characters make Flat Stanley look like Fat Albert.

All kidding aside: this was a relentlessly lousy book.
Profile Image for Alistair.
289 reviews7 followers
February 8, 2011
this is total crap !
sebastian faulks is a literary lovie and i quite liked Birdsong but how he managed to garner the favourable reviews that litter the back cover god only knows . the reviewers must have been paying back a few favours for a mate . this meant to be a state of the nation novel equivalent to Trollope or Dickens but it turns out to be more like Ben Elton without the humour
if you thought of every cliched character that might feature in such a state of the nation in 2008 sebastian attempts to bring them to life
a hedge fund manager- tick . a would be terrorist-tick . a foreign footballer with a WAG - tick . a immigrant done good who venerates english life -tick . disaffected son of megawealthy money man on drugs-tick . a north london lady that lunches -tick . a politician on the make -tick . a bit of reality TV - tick. there are a few more types thrown into the mix and all the characters are brought together at , guess what, yes a dinner party . what an original idea .
none of the characters come to life . The main one the hedge fund manager with the druggie son and i forgot to mention his alchoholic lonely wife is obviously the creation of a researcher and faulks seems to have had a lot of aid from reseachers to get the financial bits realistic but he is straight from central casting .
I expect Sebastian Falks to be writing a Daily Mail column soon batting on about " what is wrong with England today "
a truly appalling read = minus umpteen stars
Profile Image for Lorenzo Berardi.
Author 3 books228 followers
May 26, 2013
I knew I shouldn't have bought this.
But, alas, I did.

What could I have bought instead for 1.50 pounds? Mmmh...let's see
- half iced vanilla latte at the local coffee place;
- 5 litres of still mineral water from the cornershop;
- a big bunch of fair trade bananas;
And so it goes.

I remember how 'A Week in December' was included in a list named 'books you should read about post-financial crisis London' published in The Economist.

The list included 'Other people's money' by Justin Cartwright and 'Capital' by John Lanchester which I skipped countless times when raiding charity shops and such.

And yet, I bought this one. Why on Earth? Why?

My goodness, this book is so terrible.
It does look like Sebastian Faulks attended a cheap course on British bestseller cocktail chemistry, as shown:

- 20% of White Teeth Martini by Zadie Smith;
- 35% of The Infomation Soda by Martin Amis;
- 30% of Ian McEwan's Londoner Absynth;
- 10% of David Mitchell's Multicharactered Liquor;
Plus, an olive imbibed in the Thames (the remaining 5%).

Unfortunately, the taste of this inky concoct is rather dreadful. And it does leave an unpleasant aftertaste too.

What would you expect from an author who - when thinking about a name for a completely unnecessary character of a Polish footballer - ended up with Tadeusz Borowski?

Taduesz 'Spike' Borowski, to be precise.

I mean, dear Sebastian Faulks, are you an idiot not knowing who the actual Tadeusz Borowski was or shall I take this choice as a sort of clumsy joke or - even worse - as a literary anti-tribute?

For Tadeusz 'Spike' Borowski speaks in broken English.

Bad. Bad. Bad.
Just bad.

Anyways, now I can see how 'A Week in December' is included in the 'Abandoned Books' list on Goodreads.
Which doesn't surprise me a bit: after a few sips I've also left my cocktail untouched.

Did I say that this novel is bad?
Avoid it at all costs.
Profile Image for Huw Rhys.
508 reviews12 followers
January 16, 2011
Not everybody likes this book. But that's probably because they don't get it.

We ought to know by now that Sebastian Faulks' books don't conform to any norm - each one is a finely etched little etching etched onto an etching - and each one is entirely original in every way.

In "A Week in December" Faulks doesn't try to write a novel which has a story building up to a crescendo; he doesn't try to create whole, 3-Dimensional characters nor does he try to write a series of apparently disparate short stories which magically all come together under a common thread at the denouement. No, all of these formats have been done before - Faulks gives us something completely different.

We are introduced to lots of various characters - but only get to know them superficially. They come, and just as we're about to get to know them, they disappear. Interestingly, I suspect there's a novel to be written about most of them - but I digress.... An apparently monstrous financial scam is described to us in great detail - and I suspect that unless we've worked in very high finance, it means diddley squat to the majority of us. It all leaves us a little confused.

It's all a lot like real life- we get to know bits about people, and we hear dumbed down versions of the high mechanics of our over engineered society, without every really understanding any of it.

All a teeny bit bleak in so many ways - which is why this book has disappointed, frustrated and depressed so many people who read it. But once you take the standpoint that this was indeed the author's objective - it all makes sense. I loved it.
143 reviews
February 25, 2011
In a word - Disappointing. I liked the idea of this book - covering the overlapping lives of seven people in london over seven days. But the execution of it was poor, particularly when compared to Faulks' previous works.

There was very little chance to feel anything for any of the main characters, they were all just a little too vague. It amuses me that a quote from this very text, a character's assesment of a book she is reading, actually sums up one of my biggest complaints about it - "The words didn't seem to make any sort of music, they just told you the facts, like a manual; but she didn't like to give up on books once she'd started...". Most of the book felt like a brain dump of the character's past choices and actions.

As for the blurb's assertion that each caracter will be "forced ... to confront the true nature of the world they inhabit", I felt this was only succesfully achieved for one of the seven - a student 'led astray' by Islamic theory. I would have happily read a book with him as the central character and gotten a deeper sense of his life and development, rather than the snap-shot view this book gives. The rest of the characters I'll forget very quickly.

Sebastian Faulks has written some great novels. This is not one of them.
Profile Image for Paul.
2,115 reviews
February 2, 2015
Seven days and seven people; a fund manager, a tube driver, a football star, a poor lawyer, a skunk addicted school boy, a hack book reviewer and a student who is committed to the ultimate cause of Islam.

As these characters lives orbit around London and each other, you start to understand what is driving them, the hack who wants to rubbish a fellow reviewers new novel, the fund manager is trying to pull of the biggest deal of his life by pushing a bank into collapse. His teenage son has just obtained the strongest skunk that he can, and the footballer is finding his feet in this new city. The lawyer and the tube driver are beginning a relationship, and the student is sourcing the materials for a bomb.

As the tension builds and the lives of these seven Londoners become more closely intertwined, the student sets off to make his ultimate sacrifice.

Cleverly plotted, Faulks has written these characters with many flaws. Some of them you end up liking, other detesting, but not the one you may think. Has a nice twist at the end. Overall 3.5 stars as it does feel a little overwritten and careful editing would have made a tighter story. Otherwise good.
5 reviews4 followers
March 18, 2015
The premise and setting are interesting: 7 characters in 7 days set in contemporary London. Unfortunately, I found that far too many pages were dedicated to the insufferably boring story of John Veals, the immoral hedge fund manager. The trouble with choosing a character like this to dominate the story, is that you necessarily have to delve into the world in which a person like this lives (so we are pounded with pages of Faulks' research on world finance). The most we find out about Veals' real self is that he likes Russian beauties and never wears the same shirt twice. He is not a human character, unlike Hassan, Shahla, Jenni and Gabriel - the characters that, if given more time on the page, would have made this book compelling.

If the book was supposed to be a satire, it failed for me. For one, Veals was never shown to be ridiculous, he was just self-absorbed and, worse, boring.

The book reviewer character had it right: "It was worse, far worse, than he had dared to hope".
Profile Image for Deb Victoroff.
Author 2 books6 followers
December 29, 2012
I picked this book up in an airport desperate for a book for a long plane ride. I had no expectations but a lot of hope because it got glowing reviews on its cover - but sometimes those are misleading. But I was riveted from beginning to end. The end is slightly on the abrupt side - it's a surprise which is good, but the loose ends are tied up too quickly - perhaps because I loved the characters so much that I wanted another 100 pages.

There are many characters but I've seldom been introduced to so many people in a book that were so well developed with a minimum of description (A drug-addled, video-game obsessed teenager, a greedy hedge fund operator, a fledgling terrorist, a bitter book writer, a subway operator, an institutionalized schizophrenic and his caring brother, a soccer player!), and there is sweet romance, taut suspense, as well as a brilliant (in my mind) description of the recent financial crisis.

The book is described by one reviewer as "Dickensian" - and I love Charles Dickens so I was hopeful and yes, on a certain level I agree. (It is also like the writings of Tom Wolfe - if you liked "Bonfire of the Vanities you will love this). It is similar to Dickens in that each character seems like someone you know, or worked with, or read about, or might know in the future as a human who relates to other humans. But it's very contemporary.

I am in a hurry, otherwise I would wax more eloquent: but I have to say to the author and to potential readers, that this is a wonderful book, beautifully written, one of those books you can't wait to get back to when you put it down and one that you should read with a pen to make notations in the margins ("loved this!") or to underline beautiful descriptions (here's a description of the primal "rating" we do of others: "In Sophie's mind there was a... league...from which people were... promoted. Money... played a part. Next came good looks, notably appearing younger than your age.") It goes on and it's clever and honest and very funny.

Now that I know the name Sebastian Faulk, I will look for his other books with happy anticipation.
Profile Image for Melanie Peake.
29 reviews3 followers
November 19, 2009
I have read two other books by Sebastian Faulks, and my verdict has always been the same - "it was alright...." ! No change with this one, but I must admit, it kept me interested enough to keep reading to the end,*SPOILER ALERT!* to a denouement that actually failed to appear......
One thing that annoyed me was the use of obvious alternative names for people and popular culture phenomena that are recognisable to us. If you are setting a novel in the present day (it's set in 2007, which is as near as dammit to the present day!), then portraying it in terms of a dystopian future will sit awkwardly!
The author's disclaimer at the end of the book that "...the characters in this book, and their actions, are invented;any similarity between any of them and any real person, living or dead, is coincidental", is either a joke, or else meaningless! "Evelina Belle"!!! "Girls From Behind!"
Some of these alternative names are just embarassing. Faulks is very comfortable with what he knows well, but is obviously out of his comfort zone, and scornful, when describing certain aspects of modern life, from the point of view of communities, and strata of society he would not ordinarily mix with. (I might be presuming here, but the clumsiness of his writing suggests otherwise.)
The book could have been subtitled "Look How Much Research I've Done", and boy, does he not want to waste any of that information!
I seem to have judged it quite harshly, but actually, I did enjoy it, despite the feeling that I was being repeatedly hit over the head with a Gladiators-style pugil-stick, with the words "MODERN LIFE IS JUST AWFUL, AND TERRIBLY BAD FOR YOU" emblazoned on it. (!). ;)
Profile Image for Andrew Smith.
Author 6 books30 followers
January 4, 2011
The fact that the most finely-drawn character in this book of seven human protagonists is an eighth inanimate individual — the sprawling city of London — might indicate a kind of failing on the author's part, but that would be untrue. It's just that Faulks does such a fine job, with a minimum of deft description, to summon up the sweep of London's neighourhoods that the result is a vivid living and breathing milieu, perfect glue for the varied array of people and situations in this quite wonderful 21st-century novel. Locales range from the distant no-man's-land of Dayton Green (neither central nor suburban), with its "trim houses with their bow windows ... some were in terraces, some in pairs," to the elite streets of Holland Park with houses so large that family members rattle around without every running into each other, too busy getting drunk, or taking drugs, or bent obsessively over glowing computer screens. It displays a huge talent that Faulks, best known for historic novels set in the early 20th Century, is able to breath life into such typical present-day characters, from the self-made Pakistani business man and his extremist would-be terrorist son to the train driver who spends all her free time in the fantasy digital world of the computer game, Parallex, to the grasping stock trader whose fabulously wealthy wife leads an empty shell of a life and whose son is on a path to drugged-out destruction. If I have one quibble about "A Day in December" it's Faulks's almost obsessive need to try and explain the mechanism of dirty trading by the greedy broker. It's clear that the author has done his research (almost too obvious) but he nevertheless still doesn't quite manage to adequately describe the incredibly complicated stock market dealings. I found it best after a few pages to not even try to understand the details, suffice to say the man is up to dirty tricks that stand to net him millions of pounds. As the book proceeds the tension is cranked up, the disparate characters coalesce, and at the end one comes away with a pleasantly satisfying sensation that not only has one read a damn good yarn but that one is totally plugged in to a part of contemporary London life, dispiriting as it can be.
Profile Image for Glenys.
161 reviews
November 30, 2010
I loved this book, a timely, well-plotted, acutely observed intertwining of several lives over one week, and a biting, almost vituperative satire on 'the way we live now'. Indeed in the evil genius of the book, John Veals, there are echoes of Augustus Melmotte, the financier in Trollope's novel of that name. This is a wonderful characterisation of an emotionally disabled man who lives to manipulate the markets, taking short positions on a bank 'too big to fail' and engineering a situation that creates havoc for Government and pain for ordinary taxpayers. The poor get poorer and Veals makes billions. I found the details of hedge-fund practices hard to grasp yet strangely fascinating -- a glimpse into an alien world that has a huge impact on society. The other characters -- attractive or unlikeable -- are equally well drawn. It's at once funny, chilling, thought-provoking and moving. Yet despite the satire, Faulks shows empathy for his characters and demonstrates the possibility of redemption, with one exception.
180 reviews23 followers
April 16, 2012
Being a big reader, I find it hard to admit that this is the first Sebastian Faulks book that I have read. After hearing many positive reviews about his work, I read this book after being persuaded by the back-cover blurb and the intriguing front cover. As it stands, this book explains almost perfectly a week of average, modern life in the capital for a cross-section of pressurised characters. Faulks is a genius as he strips down would-be successful characters (ranging from a hedge-fund manager, a female tube driver and a barrister to name a few) and ultimately he demonstrates that few are very happy with the cards that life has given them. Faulks also presents a view that life is tough in the modern world and questions, through satire, how we can derive happiness. It is a question he somehow leaves us hanging with. The back plot in the book explains how terrorism is another aspect of the modern world and city life and the makings of a terrorist plot build up steadily throughout the book.
Personally, I loved to read Faulks’ subtle satire and intelligent thinking throughout. As an ex-London resident who has now escaped the rat-race, I warm to this book totally. Faulks’ storytelling reminds me that a stressful, dog-eat-dog and exorbitant way of life still exists out there. I can empathise with many of the characters in the book and ultimately despair over the fact that there is no let-up to the corrupt capital web they find themselves living in.
Great writing and imagery and a great introduction to Faulks. I gather that the tone and subject of his other works are very different and I look forward to reading more of his genius work.
Profile Image for Cathal Kenneally.
387 reviews9 followers
January 1, 2022
A snapshot of life in London in the first decade of the ew millennium. Several characters going about their business over a period of seven days. A misled Islamic wannabe terrorist , a hedge fund manager, a tube train driver, plus a half dozen more characters that we can relate.
The book has been compared with Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens which is strange as I’m halfway through reading this as well. Some of the people in the book you may actually detest and with good reason.
I still think Engleby is his best book but they are totally different books.
Profile Image for James.
589 reviews113 followers
February 26, 2012
An odd ensemble cast production and not my normal type of novel at all. Faulks has brought together a list of almost entirely unlikeable characters -- Veals the amoral banker, happily crashing a bank filled with old folk's pensions while ignoring his 'chilly' wife and their poorly parented son who's busy smoking his way into a psychiatric ward. Trantor (RT) the failed author, taking out his bitterness on those authors who are actually writing novels. He tears anything modern apart. The barely two-dimensional MP, Lance. The caricature immigrant lime-pickle magnate, so poorly educated that he struggles to read, which in turn causes him to obsess that everybody he views as his better sits around all the time discussing books he hasn't read. Only Jenny the train driver and Gabriel the failing barrister seem genuinely likeable, and even they somehow seem to lack any real depth of character.

That said, unlikeable though most of the characters are, none of them are truly dislikeable. Even Veals and RT, who are probably the least likeable, somehow seem to engender pity more than disgust or distaste. Neither of them really seem to engage in their vices with enough real vigour to cause any real dislike in the reader. And, I think that's the major problem with this book. The characters are too two-dimensional, too forgettable, too shallow. There is, of course, no real plot to speak of (this isn't genre fiction after all), instead the characters all move around each other, seemingly driven by coincidence only. They visit the same places as each other, interact with the same products and companies, yet rarely actually meet or have any meaningful interactions. Maybe that's the point of the novel though, the characters are drifting through their lives unaware of the coincidence, the brushes with excitement and change that they miss.

The novel itself is set over a seven day period, with each chapter dedicated to a single day. The week climaxes for each character differently -- a dinner party being the main shared experience that many of the characters move towards. For others it's a new relationship, a self-realisation, or a religious epiphany. You follow each of the main characters in their journey through this week. About half-way through the novel you start to get a suggestion that they may be some big climax at the end, some life changing experience. The repeated occurrence of the mystery cyclist provide a strong sense of a thriller. Yet pretty soon it dawns on you that isn't going to happen. The cyclist is another example of the mundane appearing connected to us, the reader, because we see the whole picture. To each character their lives are more solitary and unconnected.

In spite of the things that I didn't really get about the novel, and the things that annoyed me (the obviously made up company and product names for a start), Faulks seems to have pulled together a novel that I still thoroughly enjoyed reading. At no point was it a struggle or a chore, it just left me at the end wondering quite what it was all about, and suspecting that I'll forget it all pretty soon...
September 3, 2017
2.5 stars.
It has a lot of unnecessary information. It could have been shorter.. the plot was good. I liked the fact how people from different backgrounds met. What I really likes was the fact that he has a right picture of Islam and did not sabotage it's image.
Profile Image for Rebecca.
3,554 reviews2,534 followers
September 1, 2016
This postmodern state-of-the-nation novel has been likened to Trollope’s The Way We Live Now or to the works of nineteenth-century French novelist Honoré de Balzac. What it may remind you most of, however, is Dickens’s Bleak House, especially with Faulks’s excellent opening line, “Five o’clock and freezing,” and a long first paragraph giving a broad, sweeping overview of London in December 2007.

Faulks’s vision encompasses all sorts of people: the good and the bad, the high and the lowly. His characters range from a villainous hedge fund manager to an impecunious lawyer (my favorite character and a good Dickensian trope), via a misanthropic book reviewer and a traumatized Tube train driver. There are a few threads running through and linking the characters, including the hospital, an Internet porn star, and a bicycle with no lights on that speeds past multiple characters at poignant moments.

You’ll be pleasantly surprised to find that the book ends with relative comedy rather than the potential tragedy of a terrorist attack on the hospital where two of the characters are located. The only tragedy to foresee is the collapse of the economy, which, because of the abstract nature of the funds to begin with, doesn’t seem entirely real.

Where the book descends from satire into silliness is with its parodic naming: “YourPlace” social networking website, chick band “Girls from Behind,” the “Pizza Palace” book of the year award, and so on. Nonetheless, I think Faulks has produced a convincing and sharp send-up of contemporary British society, a notable achievement for his first non-historical novel.

(This review formed part of an article about books on the financial crisis for Bookkaholic.)
Profile Image for Pamela.
176 reviews10 followers
December 27, 2010
I had high hopes for this. Loved Birdsong. Enjoyed Charlotte Gray and The Fatal Englishman. The Sunday Times called it a best seller and likened Faulk’s effort to that of Trollope’s The Way We Live Now, a brilliant, wickedly funny and affectionate dissection of English life and people in the nineteenth century. Why? What did they see in this novel that drew them to that conclusion? Sure, Faulks subjects features (reality T.V.) and representative personalities (hedge-fund fiend) of 21st century life to the satirist’s thumbscrews, but whereas Trollope creates a complex, rounded, lived in view of the society he skewers, Faulks presents us with dyspeptic, attitude laden snapshots of his characters and their antics. These include a venal hedge-fund manager, John Veals, who allows Faulks to present his thesis (ie. lecture his reader) on the mechanics of the 2008 financial meltdown, and the excruciatingly malicious literary critic Ralph Tranter. Tranter’s personality and story are so over-the-top, and given so much space, that I wonder if the entire novel was simply an excuse for exacting revenge on a personal nemesis.

And the ending...well, it just kind of...um...well, fizzles...out.
Profile Image for Dorothy .
1,400 reviews31 followers
January 11, 2010
I have read most of this author's books and in my opinion, this is his best. The book follows the lives of 6 diverse characters all living in London whose paths cross throughout the week in question. I was very impressed with the author's ability to take the reader inside the minds of the characters. One character who I found to be chilling, is a hedge fund manager, entirely amoral, who is able to cause global financial chaos through a few computer keystrokes while making billions of dollars for himself...(sound familiar?). Another character is the young Muslim
son of a successful industrialist who joins a militant fundamentalist sect and becomes embroiled in a terrorist plot. As a commentary on life as we read it in the headlines, it is certainly very topical and extremely well written.
Profile Image for Natalie Christie .
65 reviews2 followers
August 24, 2011
i really enjoyed this book, but im unsure why if that makes any sense?? some of the financial details and islamic extremism was hard to trudge through, and there was very little detail on the majority of the 'main' characters but nonetheless i loved it! i cared about what was happening and Faulks manages to make totally believable characters and make them completely relavent and contemporary. i know that these people exist and its refreshing to see an author write about them. the honesty and unflinching realism allows us to see the characters warts and all and because of this i found myself empathising with two of the most 'unlikeable'- John Veals and Hassan. This type of writing not only delivers satire and storyline and characters but opens your eyes to the workings of our society and makes you question your own beliefs, life, relationships and mortality. a must read!!
Profile Image for James Tingle.
149 reviews7 followers
March 4, 2020

This is the only Faulks book that I've read to date and I'm not sure why I picked this one when Birdsong was sat near it on the bookcase and I've heard is supposed to be very good, but there you go. I think I probably did pick it out to read, maybe two years ago now, because the back cover description mentioned these varied characters with their differing backgrounds and it sounded like it may all converge into something pretty memorable. That wasn't really how things panned out unfortunately...The main problem was that the characters, overall, were pretty flat and one dimensional and you didn't really care if they found love or got hit by a tiny comet, wiping them and them alone off the face of the earth, ridding us of their mundanity- maybe this would have been more interesting! The Veals character, a greedy investment banker type, was sort of intriguing as he was pretty loathsome in his ruthless pursuit of money and his cruel lack of interest in his wife and son made him a sort of baddie, but there was too much boring financial detail in his sections, which became dull. Its hard to even highlight any other characters as they were all a bit forgettable...Veals' son, a heavy weed smoker, had a few interesting little cameos perhaps but its hard to think of anyone apart from Veals who made much impact at all...
I suppose it was fairly well written and some sections picked up a bit and as I've said, the Veals business guy was sort of fun to despise for a while and I got through the book, but it wasn't without some effort and it really did drag in places- mediocre at best, I'd have to conclude.
Profile Image for Nick Davies.
1,507 reviews40 followers
March 10, 2017
I was given this to read for this month's book as part of the book group I'm a part of. Having heard of, but never read, Sebastian Faulks I was looking forward to seeing what this had to offer.

I was not disappointed - particularly in terms of how well-written this was, and how a large cast of characters was described with sensitivity and realism, and a clear delineation which made several strands easy to, and a pleasure to, follow. The prose was intelligent without ever feeling over-descripted, and Faulks also makes a number of intelligent and thought-provoking points about modern life (I found myself sympathetic with the motivations of almost all the characters at times, even those usually painted as evil or corrupt) without getting preachy, and though quite dense and slow a read at times, I certainly was not bored.

However, it fell slightly short of a five star book for me because of the plot - it ambled along in various connected strands, and seemed to be building to one of a number of possible dramatic conclusions. Though part of me was glad that the obvious and heavily suggested ending didn't happen, I did feel that the lack of any real 'big ending' after all that build-up was anticlimactic.
Profile Image for Lesley.
53 reviews1 follower
March 2, 2017
I gave this three stars because I actually enjoyed the second half of it, having been bored with what came prior. I think it is worth persevering to see the allegory that Faulks opens up to us, not just of the barbarity of humanity, but of religion in its many diseased forms; and those who would be gods.

I enjoyed how Faulks persuaded me to empathise with the young Muslim man, Hassan, how this waned and the discomfort I felt as I followed his search for truth and meaning. His story is particularly gripping and shocking.

The ending was far from satisfactory. I think if the odious John Veals had been swallowed up by Allah or poisoned by his son's genetically modified drugs, been blown up or even faced prison time; as unrealistic as this would have been, I would have gone to bed tonight a happier and more satisfied reader. Not since Svengali has a fictional character sickened me so.

The other characters are all man-made gods or pawns too, in their own way. Very few of them actually likeable, though some of them sympathetic. The whole novel leaves me with an uncomfortable hopelessness, which all things considered I have to say quite liked, even in spite of the monstrous John Veal, there's a realism to it; though I still want to play god myself and tie Veal to a pyre! I suspect this was Faulks's intention: to create self-appointed Judges in his readers.

I perhaps would have given it more stars but I was bored through a lot of the descriptions. I understood the reference to football as a religion, but I skipped all those pages, of which there were too many! That said, I'd recommend it, and urge you to push on through it.
Profile Image for F.R..
Author 29 books197 followers
August 4, 2015
This undoubtedly ambitious novel attempts to combine drama, satire and an expose of the financial sector, through examining a selection of lives across London at the end of 2007. Unfortunately, it probably misses more targets than it hits.

Creating a range of characters (most of whom are middle class, some exceeding wealthy), Faulks uses them to conjure a picture of London just before the financial crash. So, we have a failing barrister, a tube driver, a Premiership footballer and a would-be suicide bomber, amongst others. Unfortunately, in the early sections, I wasn’t convinced by a great many of these characters. They mostly seemed somewhat flat and un-lifelike, as if the author knew what he wanted them to represent but hadn’t grasped who they really were. For me, the only two characters who truly leapt out were Hedge Fund Manager John Veals, and bitter literary man R. Tranter. Now both of these are white men of a certain age – as is Sebastian Faulks – and it may be that they came to life easier because he was on a surer footing when creating them. To be fair, as the book continues, the other characters do start to grow so it seems like they have their own existence, but it takes a while to get there.

I was also not particularly convinced by the stabs at satire. In ‘A Week in December’, this largely involves changing something real into something slightly different, but with a sillier name. So that ‘Big Brother’ becomes a show called ‘It’s Madness’ which has people actually diagnosed with mental problems locked together in a house; MySpace (or is it Facebook?) becomes a website called YourPlace; there’s a Damien Hirst-esque artist who’s made a cow out of fifty pounds notes; while literary awards are handed out by high-street chains like ‘Pizza Palace’. Even Liverpool FC’s former striker Robbie Fowler seems to make an appearance, as IQ challenged striker Gary Fowler. But oftentimes these jokes are made and then lie inert on the page, doing nothing but waiting to be made again. These ideas don’t develop or go anywhere. (Curiously, despite there being a different Leader of the Opposition in December 2007, Gordon Brown still appears to be Prime Minister, while John Prescott is a former Deputy Prime Minister. Even Prince Charles, who makes a brief cameo, is the same). It ends up as satire which has a lot more snarl than it does bite.

With so many different plot strands, there’s a high risk that some will fail – but unfortunately Faulks has more than his fair share. There’s briefly an angry teacher in South London, whose plot goes nowhere and does nothing; while more damagingly, given the amount of space it takes up, the suicide bomber plot fizzles out in a most unsatisfactory manner. Indeed, the book’s ending is one of the least successful parts of it. A much mooted dinner party which brings together a lot of the characters we’ve met (and some we haven’t), but fails to resolve anything. Even the moment of confrontation it produces seems to have little consequence. (And really, after what had happened in her life earlier that day, would Mrs Veals really be in the mood to attend?) As such, a book which began flat, ends with a sighed whimper.

There are things I like about this novel. Throughout there are well written passages and some sharp descriptions and dialogue (although, I find it hard to believe that any real person would say “the kind of thing they sell in their most famous high-street family stationer” when they clearly mean W.H. Smiths.) However, there are a lot more disappointments than successes between these covers. In an ideal world Faulks would have focused on either Veals or Tranter, and placed him at the very centre of a book. As it is, there’s a lot of mud to get through to reach the gold.
July 20, 2020
Someone bought it for me on an airport and it's been 10 years I try to take it out of my TBR list. I made it on my 3rd attempt. I can't say it was that boring but it sure was derivative, redundant and full of clichés. It seems to be written in a haste so as
to become a timely (to the then crisis) best-seller. Hence, Faulks does a rather sloppy job of defining and simultaneously cautetizing the 7 mortal sins of modernity in a narration that gets too prolix. Under no circumstances Veals was the ultimate vilain or Hassan the menacing Islamic terrorist just a caricature of the financial world and a westerner's stereotypical notion of the mosque goer (both, probably, known to the author via wikipedia and Google); and to make things worse, Gabriel -their antipode(?) deterrent power (?)- wasn't the philosopher that the author tried soooo hard for him to be but just a self-righteous know-it-all whiner.
All I could think from a certain point onwards was that A week in December was written with the sole purpose of becoming a movie (which I would totally watch) and that it could have been 200 pages shorter.
P.S. at one point Faulks writes (for a novelist inside the novel): "... [...]'s novel was not just bad; it was embarrassing, deliciously lame...". I tend to think the same about A week in December
Profile Image for El.
1,355 reviews504 followers
May 31, 2010
I'm a bad former-bookstore-employee. I've never read Sebastian Faulks. I've had a copy of Birdsong: A Novel of Love and War and Charlotte Gray on my bookshelf for years, and while they both look great I never actually picked either up to read. Instead I started with his newest book, which seems to be a completely different story from the abovementioned titles. At least based on what little I know about them.

The title here makes no lie. The story really is about one week in December. It takes place in London and jumps perspectives between seven different characters, all connected in some way, albeit occasionally very small ways. As the story progresses and the connections become more apparent, what also becomes more apparent is the disconnection each character has from reality. They're searching for themselves in very specific aspects of their life, whether it be through academics and literature, religion, drugs, etc. As an outsider looking in on their lives the reader has a stronger grasp on what it is they're doing - not so much as searching for themselves as they are trying to escape from reality. This is a strong point throughout the story, and one rather true to life.

In one status update I made this weekend I thought that there would be a great explosion in the end, and there were points in the novel that I thought I was going to be more correct in that hypothesis than I had intended. But it wasn't quite like that at all. The explosions were more individual surrounding the characters, a sort of epiphany. But the epiphany was more for the reader than the character - if they were real people they might not really come to terms with things for a while, but as readers we see it and we can relate and/or sympathize.

This was an enjoyable read which I mention because of the jumping perspectives - a lot of times different perspectives in quick succession can be a drag to read, either too confusing or too contrived. Faulks, however, managed to make me care about each of the characters whether I agreed with their behaviors and opinions or not. I enjoyed the literary references which I think a lot of readers might be turned off by, but I'm a nerd who digs that sort of stuff. I actually wish there had been some fantastic moment in the end, but thinking back on the story I realize a ginormous ending wouldn't have done anyone any favors and probably would have been melodramatic and slightly inappropriately theatrical.
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