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A Possible Life | [Sebastian Faulks]

A Possible Life

Terrified, a young prisoner in the Second World War closes his eyes and pictures himself going out to bat on a sunlit cricket ground in Hampshire. Across the courtyard in a Victorian workhouse, a father too ashamed to acknowledge his son. A skinny girl steps out of a Chevy with a guitar; her voice sends shivers through the skull. Soldiers and lovers, parents and children, scientists and musicians risk their bodies and hearts in search of connection.
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Publisher's Summary

Terrified, a young prisoner in the Second World War closes his eyes and pictures himself going out to bat on a sunlit cricket ground in Hampshire.

Across the courtyard in a Victorian workhouse, a father too ashamed to acknowledge his son. A skinny girl steps out of a Chevy with a guitar; her voice sends shivers through the skull.

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.

©2012 Norland Enterprises Ltd (P)2012 Random House Audiobooks

What the Critics Say

"It's rare to see an established writer broaden his range. A tightly written, moving and exciting work of fiction that deserves success, it should thrill established readers as well as win new fans. If you think you know Faulks - or even (and especially) if you haven't enjoyed his previous novels - it's time to look again." (Daily Telegraph)

"The novel engages you from page one... Each (character) is evoked with such heart-stopping immediacy that the result is extremely moving as well as fascinating." (Reader's Digest)

"It's rare to see an established writer broaden his range. A tightly written, moving and exciting work of fiction that deserves success, it should thrill established readers as well as win new fans. If you think you know Faulks - or even (and especially) if you haven't enjoyed his previous novels - it's time to look again." (Daily Telegraph)

"Critics often underestimate Faulks's versatility: his protean restlessness, half disguised by mainstream bestsellerdom... All these 'possible' lives, as they echo and overlap like Anya's own motifs, add up (I suspect) to a portrait of the artist as he approaches 60." (Independent)

"An investigation into the nature of shared human experience...it does what any good novel should - it unsettles, it moves, and it forces us to question who we are." (The Sunday Times)

"Sublime...a hauntingly beautiful exploration of the frailties and strengths of the human heart." (Easy Living)

"Within these pages we find some of his best writing." (Literary Review)

"The writing is masterfully controlled, without a word wasted. Avoiding excess emotion, Faulks evokes a deep compassion for all his troubled characters and by extension, for all of us who share their condition. A Possible Life is a profound novel... exploring big ideas without compromising the human drama. It is also, ultimately an optimistic work." (Observer)

"Faulks is a writer who gets better and better; he understands how to draw a reader in." (Daily Mail)

"The storytelling is crisp, the characters sympathetic and the philosophical themes thought-provoking..." (Mail on Sunday )

"Like the albums whose sequencing Jack and Anya agonise over, A Possible Life is more than the sum of its parts... the stories acquire power as resonances between them accrete. Only at the end do you realise you've been won over by their quiet, glinting virtuosity." (The Times)

"Faulks deserves credit for his virtuosic vocal range and ability to capture the heartache and vitality, not to mention mystery, intrinsic to human existence." (Glasgow Herald)

"Faulks at his best is a superbly economical and unshowy creator of imagined worlds. They're fully furnished... Faulks is to be admired for his ambition. What he's getting at, from various different angles, is the million dollar question. What does selfhood mean?" (Financial Times)

"Faulks writes movingly about love and about the blind connections we make with others - in our families, but also within the legacies of literature, science and music - that will outlive us and mark out places in time forever." (Psychologies magazine)

"This is a hauntingly beautiful exploration of the frailties and strengths of the human heart." (Easy Living)

"Some people might regard this novel as a collection of five short stories but that would be to diminish not just the literary achievement here, but the fragmentary yet connected sense of life the author is trying to portray. In the strongly affecting end, you realise this novel had something of a valedictory tone throughout... it's very hard not to like this most artful of novels." (Mirror)

"This is probably Faulk's most intriguing fictional offering... very moving." (Independent on Sunday )

"Every story within this novel bears the imprint of an extremely accomplished writer." (Helen Dunmore, Guardian)

"Each of his characters undergoes a crisis followed by a metamorphosis. Each is forced by the experience to consider the patterns of memory and identity, attachment and loss that shape a life. Almost imperceptibly as the text unfolds, connections emerge. A landscape, an object, a building seems inexplicably familiar and we realise we have encountered it before. These lives, so different and detached in time and sensibility, are entwined... It is the kind of large portentous theme that could have produced a grandstanding novel. But Faulks addresses it with a finely observed humanity that is all the more powerful for its concentrated emotional restraint." (Sunday Telegraph)

'Love, grief, divided loyalties and betrayal mark these lives... Faulks is not only making his readers work for their satisfaction, but offering an essentially religious rather than scientific way of looking at the big questions.' (The Tablet)

"I much admired Sebastian Faulks's A Possible Life. Faulks is almost always trying something new in his novels and you never quite know what to expect, even when you think you are in familiar territory." (Antony Beevor's 'Books for Christmas' The Daily Telegraph)

"Sebastian Faulk's latest A Possible Life - a series of five short stories sharing a commonality of place and the human condition - examines the nebulous idea that all things are interconnected. It looks particularly at the human ability for self-awareness, with one story depicting a research scientist who discovers a part of the brain where self-awareness resides. It's a quiet book taking on a challenging subject in which the links between the stories are subtle and deliberately tenuous, and offers no obvious denouement." (Nick Nairn, chef, Sunday Herald)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.7 (81 )
5 star
 (22)
4 star
 (27)
3 star
 (21)
2 star
 (7)
1 star
 (4)
Overall
3.8 (32 )
5 star
 (10)
4 star
 (9)
3 star
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2 star
 (4)
1 star
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Story
3.9 (33 )
5 star
 (9)
4 star
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3 star
 (9)
2 star
 (2)
1 star
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Performance
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  •  
    Pauline Verwood, United Kingdom 18/09/2012
    Pauline Verwood, United Kingdom 18/09/2012 Member Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
    41
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    "A Little Depressing"

    Five short stories all with the same theme, so possibly creating a whole. They were compelling and well narrated, but by the end I was thoroughly depressed! I think it fair to say that most people will experience a missed opportunity during their lifetime, but these handful of protagonists really made a meal of it. I prefer my reading to end on an up-beat.

    Having said all this, I would still recommend this book, Sebastian Faulks is a superb writer, however, I wish I hadn't listened to them all in one go!

    8 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Borbála London, United Kingdom 03/10/2012
    Borbála London, United Kingdom 03/10/2012 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
    21
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    22
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    "A beautiful treat!"

    This is the first I've "read" from Sebastian Faulks and it has completely captivated me. I will have to spend at least one or two more credits on him in the near future. I never buy an audio book if I don't like the narration in the sample and this one was a bit of a gamble, as there's a different narrator for each story and you only get to hear one of the five in the sample. All five narrators, however, were excellent. Such amazing beauty, such insight and detail of characters, such compelling and vivid narration too from all the voices! Maybe with just one exception of the third story "Everything can be explained". I found that this one did not sound quite as convincing for me as the other four, some elements of it felt a bit contrived with the narration being a little dry. They could have got someone that can speak Italian and pronounce the names properly too. But in spite of all this, even here there was so much thought and such deep insight from different angles too, so it never felt dogmatic. And as for the other four novellas, I have simply not found any fault with them at all. This is the kind of read I especially like listening to and let myself be carried away by the amazing character in the voices and accents of the actors.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    jo Manchester, UK 11/01/2014
    jo Manchester, UK 11/01/2014 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
    16
    ratings
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    28
    11
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    "Melancholic and beautiful"

    I wasn't sure about the idea of the short stories as one of the things I love about audio books is many hours of listening. I was entirely won over though. I'd find it hard to articulate exactly the complex existential themes are which link the stories, but this format renders them very subtle: the individual stories themselves are engrossing, but there's this thought-provoking undercurrent which I only really engaged with when I'd switched the story off. It'd be a great choice for a book group! I just loved it. The narration is moving, the writing beautiful, the atmosphere melancholic. It is perfect for winter listening.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Paul the Shrink 01/12/2013 Member Since 2013

    Paultheshrink

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Rather typically doleful"
    Any additional comments?

    You don't read/listen to Faulks to cheer you up. and yet I find him strangely life affirming - at least in this case. He has a penchant for the melancholic, but still manages to extract something from it that leaves me optimistic and cheered, and this collection of novelettes is no different. It took me some time to have a sense of the themes that link them, and yet by the end it was clear that they belong together even if I find it a little hard to explain why. Something to do with lost loves, lives that could have turned out another - more apparently positive way, and looking back on life and savouring it despite all the difficulties/ disappointments.Anyway, as my first experience of an audiobook (Apart from Harry Potter, and that really doesn't count as my - then young - daughter made me!), this left me thoughtful, hopeful and wanting more to help with my new, extended commute to work; and for me that seems like a pretty good recommendation.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mikey poole, United Kingdom 08/10/2014
    Mikey poole, United Kingdom 08/10/2014 Member Since 2013

    Audible Addict

    HELPFUL VOTES
    27
    ratings
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    Story
    "Laborious and depressing"
    Any additional comments?

    Don't get me wrong, there were small parts of this book I enjoyed, but for the most part I can honestly tell you that this book is comprised mainly of misery for the sake of misery. I can understand how people before this have dubbed it as beautiful, as misery can often be made beautiful with the right words and if the story is told right, E.G. Les Miserable. This story is told fine and like I said I enjoyed some of it. This book should come with a warning: Danger - Depression Imminent.Do not listen to this book if you have a history of depression. This story will cause a relapse. It just seems like Faulks wrote five random stories that he decided would all end badly, Just for the sake of it. I was left with a bad taste in my mouth despite my persistence, the narration was good and the stories believable and sad, but this didn't make me feel good. I found myself bored mostly, and slightly angry at Faulks' negative pessimistic outlook in all five stories towards five good characters.Give it a go, but be warned.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    EGS UK 20/03/2014
    EGS UK 20/03/2014 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
    3
    ratings
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    4
    4
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    0
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    "Something of a curate's egg."
    What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

    This is not a novel but a set of 5 long short stories, with a tenuous and barely discernible link between them. The first 2 stories were riveting & I could really identify with the characters. The 3rd was interesting, the 4th baffling and the last just plain boring and pretentious. Quite disappointing, as I have loved all Sebastian Faulks's previous books.


    What will your next listen be?

    Doors Open by Ian Rankin.


    What about the narrators’s performance did you like?

    All five narrators were good, very clear. I particularly liked the Cockney narration of the second story, which was appropriate and well done.


    You didn’t love this book--but did it have any redeeming qualities?

    Yes, two really good and stories, which reflected well the period in which they were set. Believable characters, beautiful prose.


    Any additional comments?

    Not about the book itself, but the description on the Audible website could have made the nature of the book clearer.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Zeb Cumbria, UK 07/04/2013
    Zeb Cumbria, UK 07/04/2013 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
    3
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    4
    2
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    1
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    "Thoughtful writing"

    I enjoyed this as I do pretty much everything Sebastian Faulks writes. His studies of human nature, of what 'makes us tick' are insightful and revealing. I thought that the first two stories were more convincing than the last though, which started to drag a little; perhaps with too much detail of the songs and their writing.



    Also, I think that the characters in the first story and the narrator in the second were engaging, whereas the narrator of the third I didn't really care about! A good read as ever though.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dr. Laurence G. Measey Portsmouth, UK 29/03/2013
    Dr. Laurence G. Measey Portsmouth, UK 29/03/2013 Listener Since 2008

    measeyl

    HELPFUL VOTES
    6
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    "A possible good read"

    I am very fond of the writing opf Sebastian Faulks. I wonder about this work which seems to be a collection of short stories with som common themes. Unless he is writing for transmigrationists it is hard to get all the connections. Good writing, nice narration by a well selected team which seems to accentuate the separateness of the stories.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Adrienne ohope, New Zealand 23/12/2012
    Adrienne ohope, New Zealand 23/12/2012 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
    7
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    9
    9
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    0
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    "Dark and haunting tales"

    Faulkes writes beautifully about war; he captures the inhumanity, the waste, the wanton cruelty and the senselessness of it all. The first of the stories that are loosely linked in the text, is an examination of war and its cruelty and I found it horrifying and disturbing. Having read Birdsong I knew his ability to place his reader in the event, but this story had an even greater impact. The move from story to story is quite abrupt and this is a disadvantage to lstening to this text rather than reading it.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David SWINDON, United Kingdom 23/12/2012
    David SWINDON, United Kingdom 23/12/2012 Member Since 2005
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    1
    1
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    "An excellent and entrancing collection"

    I have been a Faulks fan since first reading Birdsong some many years ago. Since then he has never disappointed and this particular work raises his already brilliant bar even higher. This is a collection of life narratives that is enthral long and captivating from beginning to end. An absolutely excellent novel that brings the characters to life and immerses you in that life.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 1-10 of 11 results PREVIOUS12NEXT
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  • Chris
    Felixstowe, United Kingdom
    27/11/12
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "For me it was not up to Faulk,s high standard"
    What did you like best about A Possible Life? What did you like least?

    Having read nearly all his works, and really enjoyed 90% particularly On Green Dolphin Street and Charlotte Grey I sadly found this one off the pace.

    No real complaint, 90% complete satisfaction is a target few author hit.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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