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The Fatal Englishman: Three Short Lives

3.69  ·  Rating details ·  545 Ratings  ·  25 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
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Published July 1st 2009 by Vintage (first published 1996)
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Zainab Magdy
May 26, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Apr 26, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 20, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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.
Juan José
Dec 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Three short lives, one great book!!
Judith Chambers
Have stopped reading this book because I found the first story became boring. May come back to it at some point.
Usually I enjoy books by Sebastian Faulks and rate them highly.
Sister Morticia
Interesting book which is actually three separate biographies of doomed but brilliant (in their own ways) English men. None of the men are connected in any way; never met, different decades, different careers, different lives, but all died young and seemed to represent their generation. I found the writing style quite dry, so didn't really connect enough with the book, but an interesting read nonetheless.
Jun 05, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 24, 2013 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 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
Sep 29, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 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
Jul 30, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had read it a many years back and I remember it impacting me profoundly. This is a collection of short biographies of lives tragically cut short (the indication is pointedly towards self-destruction), but what sets this piece apart is the fact that the prodigious protagonists in the book did not have it easy at all. Their experiences with societal idiosyncrasies were pretty much the same as what the common folks face on a daily basis. The book brings out the overarching role of our community i ...more
Sep 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Confession; I love everything that Sebastian Faulkes writes, whether a short story, newspaper article or one of his excellent works of fiction (Engleby being my favorite).

The Fatal Englishman is a fine work about three disparate Englishman that died at a young age. I connected more with the last two but was engaged throughout and thoroughly captivated by the Jeremy Wolfenden chapter. A great read with lots of detail and insight into the lives of three young, brilliant men sadly linked by their e
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
Wilde Sky
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.
Feb 24, 2010 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.
Oct 11, 2015 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.
Feb 04, 2014 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.
Troy Alexander
Jul 16, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Loved it!
May 07, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Riveting read about three very diverse boys from Blighty. I absolutely loved this book. Thanks Paolo!
Jun 25, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent writer and this was 3 biographies of men, none really famous, all of whom died young. I don't normally like biographies but these were interesting.
Jul 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My first flitation with Faulks and what an introduction.
Jan 05, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
All three men are pathetic excuses for a human being but the writing of Faulks, as always, is superb.
Tina Todd
Right up my street. Looking into the hearts and minds of 3 individuals. Written almost like 3 novellas.
Vicki Day
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Sep 14, 2009
Christian Williams
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Emily Taylor
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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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