Review: A Week in December – Sebastian Faulks

Title: A Week in December
Sebastian Faulks
Publication date:
Vintage Books
Genre: Literary fiction
Format: Paperback

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London, the winter of 2007, a week before Christmas. Seven days for us to step into the lives of seven Londoners: John Veals, the hedge fund manager, a complete workaholic who never smiles and became completely alienated from his family; his son, Finbar, an average teenager who is obsessed with reality TV and drugs; Ralph Tranter, an obnoxious book reviewer who previously failed as a writer; Spike Borowski, a Polish footballer who recently joined a popular British team; Gabriel Northwood, a young lawyer who lacks any kind of motivation in life and has no interest in his job whatsoever; Hassan al-Rashid, a student who gets mixed up in a serious religious conflict and last but not least Jenni Fortune, a tube driver whose Circle Line train join these people’s lives on a daily basis. “The novel pieces together the complex patterns and crossings of modern urban life, and the group is forced, one by one, to confront the true nature of the world they inhabit.” (from the back cover)

This has been the first book I’ve read by Sebastian Faulks and I had such high hopes for this. The cover is drop-dead gorgeous (being in love with London I’m a little bit partial anyway), the blurb sounded promising and I was eager to start reading it – only to discover that it’s not nearly as good as I thought it would be. In short, it’s a huge disappointment.

It could have been so much better though! The main idea is great and very intriguing, but the characters and the writer’s style is not too enjoyable. None of the characters are particularly likeable, but that in itself wouldn’t be a problem. The worst thing about it is the complete lack of action throughout the novel – I was waiting for something to happen but nothing really did until the last 130 pages. The pace of the story was painfully slow and the fact that Faulks explained every single thing about the banking system, funds, the stock exchange, debt and so on made it even worse. There were many times when I couldn’t bear it any longer and started to skip these long paragraphs, then whole pages. Which I almost never do.

On the positive side, there was something about it that made me want to keep on reading. Partly it was due to the fact that I started to like Jenni and Gabriel and I wanted to know what happens to Hassan. So I did keep on reading and managed to finish it – the last 100 or 130 pages were more fast paced and less descriptive, finally. The ending was great and I really liked how everything turned out.

On the whole, did Faulks manage to convey his message and give a clear picture of contemporary London and British society? I would say yes. The characters a bit too far-fetched but he does have a point. All in all, it’s an OK read – do not start reading it if you’re not patient enough or if you don’t have much time. It’s not an easy read and it will be challenging at times (well…many times), but you might end up enjoying it if you prefer something less fast paced.



  1. Book Crook Liza says

    Aw, that's disappointing! I really love the cover of this and love to read about London. I would be a little worried about seeing into so many characters though – I'm afraid I'd get lost! Love your honest review!

    Liza @ Book Crook Liza

  2. Natframpton says

    Great review hun. You balanced your review really well. It is a shame it wasn't as good as you hoped. I have birdsong by sebastian faulks which I have heard raving reviews for.

  3. Anna says

    I do see where you are coming from with your review but I personally found this book a rewarding read. I felt that it was almost Dickensian in its social commentary and satire and that the far-fetched characters were part of this. I agree that the finance stuff was challenging – and there was a lot of it – but I certainly learned a lot and I’m glad for it. It is the sort of book that can keep you musing on the pros and cons of contemporary society for a few weeks after reading.

    I hope that the fact you didn’t enjoy this book that much doesn’t stop you reading other books by Faulks. Birdsong is my favourite book and it is quite different from A Week in December.

    • says

      The social commentary side of it was really good, I have to admit that. I’ve heard great things about Birdsong so I may have to give that one a try.

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