The book is described as a novel in five parts but there is no real connection apart from theme between the five stories in this book. Each story is a different character’s life ranging from historical to contemporary and even into the future. As you’d expect from the author of Birdsong and Charlotte Gray each story is well crafted and engaging.
The first part is about a young soldier in World War Two who is captured in France by the Germans. As he was with an irregular unit he is not sent to a POW camp and is instead sent east to one of the Nazi’s concentration camps where he witnesses unspeakable horrors. Horrors that stay with him for the rest of his life.
Part two follows the life of a man in Victorian England who is sent to a work house as a young boy. After his tenure is finished he must build a life for himself and try not to repeat the mistakes of his father.
Part three sees Faulks verge into science fiction territory with a story set in the not too distant future. This time we follow a young woman with a knack for science who makes an amazing discovery about how our minds work that may be the key to unlocking the human soul.
Part four is the shortest of the collection. Set in 19th century France Jeanne looks back at her life as a servant to a most eccentric family.
The final story is about a singer/songwriter and her journey from obscurity to fame told by her manager/boyfriend and is easily my favourite of the book.
I am not a huge fan of short stories. More often than not I’m left wanting more, which was the case with this book. At times it felt as though we were rushing through a character’s life and I wanted to slow down and let the story unfold more. To say that each part forms a novel as a whole I think is a stretch but nor is this a collection of 5 short stories. But Faulks is a master storyteller and an expert in capturing a sense of time and place whether that is 150 years ago or thirty years from now. While I hesitate to call it a novel this is still a great book that explores human life and all its passions, frailties, success and failures.
Classification: Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)
Format: Paperback (198mm x 129mm x 19mm)
Publish Date: 12-Sep-2013
Country of Publication: United Kingdom