Monday, December 03, 2012

"A Possible Life" - A Novel in Five Parts by Sebastian Faulks

In his new novel, "A Possible Life," Sebastian Faulks uses an unusual format to tell a continuous story.   In a series of five inter-related novellas, he features five very different people living in five different places during five different periods of history.  Yet, these disparate stories are united by common humanity and shared longings and struggles.

Geoffrey Talbot goes off to fight in France in World War I and returns to England to teach in a private school.

In Victorian London, the Webb family cannot afford to feed all of their children, so Billy draws the short straw and is sent off to live in the workhouse. He meets Alice and their lives remain intertwined in complex ways.

In 21st century Italy, Elena Duranti becomes a world-renowned scientist examining the phenomenon of human consciousness.

In rural France, in the early 1800's, Jeanne works as a humble laundress and faces a difficult choice of how to respond to an offer of physical intimacy from a surprising source.

Singer-songwriter Anya King turns the music world on its ear in New York, LA and beyond.  But what of her own life?

Where is the common link among these men and women?  The author buries a clue deep within the Jeanne narrative.  Jeanne has been treated warmly by the monk who has the humble task of overseeing the laundry and the simple women who toil there:

"In the smile of Brother Bertrand, however, she glimpsed a sort of heaven.  She saw what it might be life to let another creature see inside herself - and she imagined what views she might be granted in return.  Perhaps most other people's lives were like that, she thought.  What might it be like not to be alone?" (Pages 191-192)

So, through the prism of these five lives, Faulks explores the deep question of the many forms that loneliness and the quest to overcome it may take.  The result is a satisfying and moving patchwork quilt stories of almost connections and near relationships.  The few moments of true soul connections shine like gems.



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