September book of the month shortlist: Sebastian Faulks
Book club is back! To start our new book club season, we're very pleased that Sebastian Faulks will be joining our book club discussion on Thursday 30 September. It's up to you which of our shortlist of Sebastian's novels will be up for discussion. Vote now for your favourite to be September Book of the Month. Poll closes on Monday 13 September.
Sebastian Faulks, who was born in 1953, was the first literary editor of the Independent and became deputy editor of the Independent on Sunday before leaving in 1991 to concentrate on writing. He continues to write for newspapers and magazines, and for television, as well as appearing on Radio 4's The Write Stuff. He has written 13 books, including the new James Bond novel Devil May Care. He lives with his wife and three children in London. He was awarded the CBE in 2002.
Read more about the novels and then vote for the one you'd like as September's Book of the Month.
A Week in December by Sebastian Faulks
Faulks' most recent novel, published last year, is the only one of his novels to date set in contemporary times. All the action happens in 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. Piecing together the complex patterns and crossings of modern urban life, Faulks exposes the self-deceptions, hopes and loves of this diverse group of people. Greed, corruption, consumerism, terrorism and drugs are all explored in this savagely humorous book, a biting satire on our current dysfunctional society.
Critics say: "Readers will race through the pages like bankers through cash." Guardian
On Green Dolphin Street by Sebastian Faulks
Faulks shifted location to the United States for his sixth novel, which begins in 1959. Mary van der Linden is married to a hard-drinking British diplomat, Charlie, in Washington at the height of Russian dominance in the Cold War. They have two small children who are dispatched to school in England. Destabilised by this separation from her children and by her mother's impending death from cancer, Mary falls in love with an American newspaperman, Frank Renzo. While Frank is sent to cover the 1960 election between John F Kennedy and Richard Nixon, Charlie's alcohol dependency (driven by his World War Two experiences) worsens when he is blackmailed by the security services following a liaison in the Far East. On a mission to Soviet Russia, he has a breakdown and Mary flies out to rescue him. Mary's moving struggle - with her mother's death, her divided loyalties, her passions - is the defining centre of the book. The novelist Julie Myerson, choosing On Green Dolphin Street as one of her favourite-ever novels in The Observer in 2007, wrote: "It is one of
the most heart-shakingly accurate depictions of how it feels to be female and in love that I have ever read."
Critics say: "Both tense and affecting… At the end one releases the breath one has unconsciously been holding. A modern epic." Anita Brookner, Spectator
Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks
Faulks's fourth novel has become a classic of modern English literature. It is taught at school and university on both English and History syllabuses, has sold millions of copies worldwide and is regularly voted one of the nation's all-time favourite books.
The story begins in Amiens, northern France, in 1910. A young Englishman, Stephen Wraysford, is on attachment from London, and begins an intense affair with Isabelle, the wife of his landlord. The lovers flee together to Provence where she becomes pregnant and leaves him. The story moves on to Flanders in 1916. Stephen is an infantry officer on the Western Front, alongside many tunnellers. Faulks gives an extraordinarily vivid picture of the daily life of the soldier, the horrific effects of wounds and gas, but also the intense friendships of men under pressure.
We see the whole of the first day of the Battle of the Somme from Stephen's point of view, from the wait at dawn to the fall of dusk when he lies wounded in a shell hole along with 60,000 others. Encompassing many themes of love, redemption, sacrifice and grief, this is a magnificent story. "It is a book about sons," Faulks once said. "Ten million of them killed for no reason. And the grief of 20 million parents."
Critics say: "One of the finest novels of the last 40 years." Mail on Sunday
Engelby by Sebastian Faulks
Narrated by the main character, Mike Engleby, this is a darkly funny novel. Mike comes from a poor working-class family, but wins a scholarship to a private school, where he is brutally bullied. By the 1970s, he is studying natural sciences at a top university. He is witheringly dismissive about his teachers and his contemporaries, with one exception - Jennifer Arkland, a history student whose enthusiasm for life is in contrast to Mike's cynical distaste. When Jennifer mysteriously disappears, Mike is among those questioned. He ridicules the police for suspecting him, though he has in fact stolen Jennifer's journal during a party at her house. Years later, when Mike is a heavy drinking, pill-popping newspaper journalist in London, flashbacks begin to fill in the background of his earlier life in a disturbing way. Both repellent and hopelessly mesmerising, Mike's willingness to say the unthinkable make him an exceptional narrator. A meditation on the strangeness of human consciousness.
Critics say: "Thrillingly moving… Most novelists will never write lines that speak to the heart so effectively; for Faulks that seems the easiest thing of all." Independent on Sunday
Vote for your choice by midnight on Monday 13 Sept and then join our book club discussion on Thurs 30 Sept at 8pm.
Last updated: 6 months ago