IMG_0013What’s the book about?

A Possible Life is a novel made up of five separate stories over five different time periods. The blurb on Amazon (which I’m using because I read this as an e-book and the one thing I miss about those is the blurb stuff on inside flaps or back covers, but of course now that I look at the beginning on my Kindle app it says the same thing so that shows what I know) says:

Soldiers and lovers, parents and children, scientists and musicians risk their bodies and hearts in search of connection – some key to understanding what makes us the people we become.

Provocative and profound, Sebastian Faulks’s dazzling novel journeys across continents and time to explore the chaos created by love, separation and missed opportunities. From the pain and drama of these highly particular lives emerges a mysterious consolation: the chance to feel your heart beat in someone else’s life.

Which doesn’t really tell you very much I think. And is also a bit pretentious to my mind which is a real shame and would certainly have put me off if I hadn’t been seduced by the cover, intrigued by the structure and caught up in the first story before I really started paying attention.

Why did I want to read it?

See above. Plus I like Sebastian Faulks and as far as I am concerned he gets away with a lot on the strength of Birdsong. I have quite a few of his books but I think this is only the second I’ve read, which is interesting (to me at least).

I was also fascinated to see how this would stack up against A Visit from the Goon Squad which is also a book of linked stories creating a novel and which I absolutely adored and have to thank Silvery Dude for recommending to me (he actually went on about it a lot to anyone within hearing distance but is forgiven because he was right).

What did I think about it?

Well. The first thing to say is that it didn’t work as a novel for me. I think the links between the stories were too tenuous for me to easily pick up (and I like to think I’m the kind of reader who does the whole “wait a minute, is that a connection?” thing more often than not). I spotted a couple of them but not enough to pull it together in a coherent whole.

But, I actually really enjoyed all of the stories, in particular the first one “A Different Man” which starts in 1938 and takes in WWII and its aftermath, and (funnily enough, a bit of bookending) the last one “You Next Time” which starts in 1971 and tells a tale set in the music industry of the time, and which I found lovely and very moving and rather sad and made me want to listen to early Joni Mitchell.

So very much worth spending time with but for this reader a collection of accomplished short stories, not a novel.

And I really need to re-read Goon Squad……

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