A week in December by Sebastian Faulks
Posted by Frank Burns
If, like me, you start this novel believing it to be a typical thriller that sets out its characters and location in the first few chapters, guides you through a plethora of situations and events that, seemingly, lead to a ‘grand finale’…….well, you will be disappointed.
There is no denouement at the end. All the preceding chapters reveal the complicated threads that link characters (from wildly different backgrounds), and lead the reader to imagine there is going to be some kind of cathartic conclusion……that the baddies are going to get their comeuppance and the suffering underlings are going to find some kind of salvation.
Take note of the cover title: A week in December. In this case of 2007. We are given a cross section of London society, all going about their daily business. A new Tory MP throwing a party to give his political career a kick start. A financier who is intent on bringing down a major bank, and pocketing billions himself. A down-at-heal lawyer who seems to be more successful as a reader and critic of fine literature than a purveyor of justice in the courts. A writer and literary commentator who spends most of his life and energy decrying the literary merits of others, especially his own immediate competitors. A lady tube driver who, unusually, loves her underground job, but also has a secret passion for reading. An Islamic extremist intent on wrecking havoc in the manner of the July 7th bombers.
This is a view of the nation (albeit in London) as it was, and as seen through the eyes of one man. Faulks is merciless in his treatment of misdemeanors, of fundamentalism, of specious literary criticism, of society climbers, and of the evils of greed in the city. A week in December finishes, probably like many weeks, with some achieving their goals and others not.
Revealingly, John Veals (the evil financier) achieves the goal of his life: he destroys a major bank and the livelihoods of thousands of farmers in Africa, and walks away with more money than he could spend in a thousand lifetimes. Perhaps he was feathering his own ‘eternal’ nest………..