by Sebastian Faulks
I came to read this book by a slightly different route than usual. Here’s how. My son and daughter-in-law visited us just before Christmas, and were planning to do some last-minute Christmas shopping. They asked me what gift I thought my aunt would like. More specifically, if they bought her a book, which one. David suggested Marlon James’ A Brief History of Seven Killings. Well, I had enjoyed this book (though it was a bit of a slog, in parts), but I wasn’t convinced that Wendy would like it. I had just read something, while browsing a website, about Sebastian Faulks’ latest novel. I thought it sounded interesting, and suggested that title to David and Debbie.
Wendy often leaves some of her gifts with us, to deliver to her when we next visit her by car. That way, she doesn’t have to carry heavy items – especially books – on the coach. Since she seemed inclined to leave this book, I asked if I might read it before returning it to her, and she agreed. Just two weeks before our next scheduled visit to Wendy, I deemed the time right to start reading this book.
So there’s the background; what about the book? I have to say that I relished every page. Faulks is a skilled user of language, able to draw detailed and vivid settings and characters. But I’m afraid that some of his books have left me cold. In particular, I didn’t enjoy Human Traces – and so I was a little cautious when I realised that this book also explores the workings of the mind through the experience of a mid-twentieth-century psychiatrist (in fact, two such). I need not have worried. The narrative cleverly delivers the life story of Robert Hendricks in his own words, at the same time as his growing understanding of what his life has meant, the effect his relationships have had upon him, and the supreme importance of memory in all our lives.
Though other critics may complain that there are elements of the novel that don’t easily fit the narrative, I found few if any of these. I found, instead, that I could get inside Hendricks’ head and understand life as he sees it.
Highly recommended. Indeed, I believe I will recommend this book to my book group. It offers plenty to talk about – and I don’t think we have read a book by this author yet.