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And September's Sebastian Faulks novel is....A WEEK IN DECEMBER (discussion 8pm, Thurs 30 September)

(104 Posts)
TillyBookClub Tue 14-Sep-10 08:31:22

September's poll is now closed and we have our winner: A WEEK IN DECEMBER steamed ahead with 49 votes, putting BIRDSONG in second place with 41.

Sebastian will join us for discussion night on Thursday 30 September, kicking off at 8pm and finishing at around 9.30pm.

We also have two tickets to give away for the London theatre production of BIRDSONG - we'll pick a name out of a hat at the end of the evening.

For those that missed it, here were the choices and the September poll results.

And for anyone new to Bookclub, here is how it works.

ginghamgiraffe Thu 30-Sep-10 20:27:45

Hello MrFaulks, Am I allowed to interrupt with a non-literary question?

I am 34 weeks pregnant and have no boys' names inspiration and I really like Sebastian. blush

Do you like your name?
What were you called growing up? (I'm guessing not KnivesAnd? <groan>grin)

<bit more back on track>
I've not read any more of your previous books (enjoyed film of C Gray) but did read AWID - blush
Also, R Tranter anguished over Alexander Sedley's biogs and his own - do you?

TillyBookClub Thu 30-Sep-10 20:29:08

MayorNaze, I'm with you - I thought of Lodge too. Reminded me of my favourite, Nice Work. They both have that very British type of satire, which Jonathan Coe does very well too.

Sebastian, you mentioned in one interview I read, ages back, think it was Sunday Times, that British novelists are incapable of writing a serious state of the nation novel, because they always fall back to satire/mockery. Whereas Americans take themselves very seriously.

Do you think that's ever going to change? (and I guess this ties in with my first question, about whether you think British novelists have aduty to try and grasp contemporary life)

Wheelybug Thu 30-Sep-10 20:30:07

I was intrigued by the research on the muslim fundamentalists - how did you go about this, or was it best guess as I can't imagine its easy to research !

Also, what happened to Hassan, did they catch up with him or did he live happily ever after ? I was desperate to know !!

SebastianFaulks Thu 30-Sep-10 20:30:49

To zerominus zero

This is a v interesting point.

Engleby is lovable in a way. he says things that some of us may feel but dare not say.
He is unbelievably honest.
But, as you say, he is a murderer.

A friend of mine said how much she liked him. And i said, 'Sure, until you found out what he had done.'
She sighed, looked into the distance, and said, 'No, I still liked him.'

the standards we apply to people in books are different from real life. In books the only sin is not to be interesting. If a character is vital you can forgive him almost anything.

I love Mike Engleby. He is so not me; yet he is like the shadow side of me.
I love him because he worked so well for me.
Antoher character who did that and whom I love to death as a result is Kitty in Human TRaces.

ginghamgiraffe Thu 30-Sep-10 20:31:21

ooh good question wheelybug!

PotKettleBlack Thu 30-Sep-10 20:31:35

To be cheeky and ask yet another question ... who is your favourite character of your own? and who is your favourite character created by any other writer?

MayorNaze Thu 30-Sep-10 20:32:30

Yes Tilly that was exactly the book I was thinking of!! Great minds...grin

Sebastian - please be assured I really enjoyed the book

i am in general a bit emoticon-happy though - sorry blush

Wheelybug Thu 30-Sep-10 20:33:01

A general question too -

Everyone raves about Bird Song (quite rightly) and I would imagine, for many, it is the book that most people think of when they think of you. It is probably my favourite although I read it ages ago. Engleby is a close contender.

Do you have a favourite and why ?

chocoholic Thu 30-Sep-10 20:34:21

I arrived late so still catching up but in the meantime: Whose books do you like to read, what is your favourite and which of yours would you recommend I read next?

SebastianFaulks Thu 30-Sep-10 20:35:13


My research into Islam was mostly reading books. I went to Copenhagen with a suitcase of books, including the Koran, and said I would not emerge until I had understood it al. It was very very interesting.
And sad.

Hassan is fine. he is redeemed by love and by Shahla. And by the fact that his parents, good loving Muslims, look after him.
Unlike the awful financier, John Veals, who doesn;t care about his son.

yUMMYmUMMYb Thu 30-Sep-10 20:36:44

Just wondering if there was any part of the book you could re-write, which would it be?

I may be odd, but i kind of found myself wanting Hassan to proceed with his task?? Not that i would ever think this in real life, but i thought it would be the ultimate link for all the characters...

Wheelybug Thu 30-Sep-10 20:37:21

Thank you - and thank you for setting my mind at rest about Hassan grin. I found the Islam/political thread very interesting and informative.

zerominuszero Thu 30-Sep-10 20:38:26

SF: Many thanks for answering my question, I suppose it can be filed up there with the 'Pat Bateman from American Psycho' discussion.

Afraid I haven't got round to buying your latest yet, hence my question on Engleby, but I will make sure I do soon. And as a completely irrelevant aside, my father in law apparently vaguely knew you when you both worked at the Independent. He says you were a nice guy. So there you go.

Thanks again

Wheelybug Thu 30-Sep-10 20:38:38

I agree Yummy - I think that's where it felt it was all heading so was - in a peverse kind of way - a let down when it didn't happen. But a good twist (and nice to have a happy ever after....)

SebastianFaulks Thu 30-Sep-10 20:39:46

Wheelybug and others

My favourite book of mine is Human Traces, though I love Birdsong and am grateful to it for the way ti changed my life.
I want to write one more that I think it on a par with those two. I think Charlotte Gray, Engleby and The FAtal Englishman were my next best shots.

My favourite character is Kitty in Human Traces, though I do love Charlotte too. And Mike Engleby.

My favourite characters b others include Joe Gargery in Great Expectation, Emma in "Emma" and John Self in Martin Amis's novel "Money". A monster but a vital one!

Wheelybug Thu 30-Sep-10 20:41:33

Actually Human Traces is the only hole in my Sebastian Faulks repertoire. I am sure I have it but for some reason haven't read it. I shall rectify that very soon !

TillyBookClub Thu 30-Sep-10 20:42:41

Sebastian, you are doing sterling work - just thought I'd flag up a few questions from further up the thread, in case they get lost (apologies if you're already answering them):

JustineMumsnet: How did you research the bankers- did you hang out in Corney and Barrow drinking champers of an evening?

Noahandthewhale: Where do your ideas come from? And do you have some ideas that start off but don't end up as books? And are you working on anything at the moment?

ginghamgiraffe: What were you called growing up?
And R Tranter anguished over Alexander Sedley's biogs and his own - do you?

SebastianFaulks Thu 30-Sep-10 20:42:50

to Tilly

Yes it is a state of the nation book. It could be called The Way We Live Now, if Trollope hadn’t nicked that one. I’m not sure about ‘duty’ but I thought it would be interesting. The book turne d out much more angry than I expected. I think the flight from reality into electronic escape is really worrying. We have access to knowledge, but we don’t have knowledge in our heads any more. It’s too much like hard work. The generation now in its twenties and thirties is the first for perhaps two hundred years in Europe who will end up knowing less in aggregate than its parents. This is the opposite of education. It is appalling.
Knowing things in your own head, full understanding them, is important. If Tony Blair had known much history he would not have invaded Iraq.
The question about why English/British writers can’t write like Bellow, Updike or Roth is a very complex one. But Gabriel has some thought s on it in AWID!

I also go into it in Faulks on Fiction, the book that will accompany the TV progs in FEb

JustineMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 30-Sep-10 20:43:00

Re John Veals and his son, I worked with a guy who absolutely refused to leave the office before 6.30 however bored he was because he didn't want to get home before bedtime in case he had to interact with his son. As an aside, he also referred to the female administrator as Woof Woof. Nice fellow.

ginghamgiraffe Thu 30-Sep-10 20:45:08

shock Justine - that's awful about your ex-colleague.

Sebastian Did you play lots of SecondLife?

SebastianFaulks Thu 30-Sep-10 20:45:09


Being called Sebastian was a bit of a trial when you were trying to get a game of darts in a pub aged 17 and everyone else was called Bill and John and Nick.
\But I have grown to like it. And it is now much more usual. Lots of Europeans are called it.

And it is my younger son;s second name, so I must have come round it it.

Seb was the usual shortening, especially on the football field...

ElectricSoftParade Thu 30-Sep-10 20:46:13

Swoons Sebastian! Am so excited to actually type at you! Right, will stop with the exclaimation marks!! Now.

My all time best book is Birdsong. Cannot tell you how much I adore the book. Have you been very involved with the theatre production? Am looking forward to seeing it soon.

Scampers off with a spring in her tail and to continue reading A Week in December ESP

ginghamgiraffe Thu 30-Sep-10 20:46:54

Thank you grin

SebastianFaulks Thu 30-Sep-10 20:47:44


I would probably cut a bit more of the financial detail -- though I cut it by half from the first draft.

When I planned the book, Hassan did succeed in his bomb plot.
But I realised half way through that although it is any angry book, it is also a comedy at heart -- or a satire at least.
And comedies must end not with the deaths of individuals but with a sense that society as whole will somehow carry on.
Also, it gave me a good twist, I felt.

ElectricSoftParade Thu 30-Sep-10 20:50:00

Remember when I commuted to London every day and always used the same carriage. There were several people reading Birdsong and we used to look, with a knowing nod to each other, saying "Oooohhh, which bit are you up to?"

Haven't read Engleby but will. Blooming children, they do get in the way...

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