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Review GPA: A POSSIBLE LIFE by Sebastian Faulks

Amanda Nelson

Staff Writer

Amanda Nelson is an Executive Director of Book Riot. She lives in Richmond, VA.

a possible lifePublication Date: December 11, 2012

Genre: Literary Fiction

Publisher: Henry Holt & Co

Publisher’s Synopsis: “From the critically acclaimed, bestselling author of Birdsong, new fiction about love and war—five transporting stories and five unforgettable lives, linked across centuries.

In Second World War Poland, a young prisoner closes his eyes and pictures going to bat on a sunlit English cricket ground.

Across the yard of a Victorian poorhouse, a man is too ashamed to acknowledge the son he gave away.

In a 19th-century French village, an old servant understands—suddenly and with awe—the meaning of the Bible story her master is reading to her.

On a summer evening in the Catskills in 1971, a skinny girl steps out of a Chevy with a guitar and with a song that will send shivers through her listeners’ skulls.

A few years from now, in Italy, a gifted scientist discovers links between time and the human brain and between her lover’s novel and his life.

Throughout the five masterpieces of fiction that make up A Possible Life, exquisitely drawn and unforgettable characters risk their bodies, hearts and minds in pursuit of the manna of human connection. Between soldier and lover, parent and child, servant and master, and artist and muse, important pleasures and pains are born of love, separations and missed opportunities. These interactions—whether successful or not—also affect the long trajectories of characters’ lives.

Provocative and profound, Sebastian Faulks’s dazzling new novel journeys across continents and centuries not only to entertain with superb old-fashioned storytelling but to show that occasions of understanding between humans are the one thing that defines us—and that those moments, however fluid, are the one thing that endures.”


Ron Charles for The Washington Post

Gold Star:“These stories sneak up on you, gently ingratiate themselves, get you settled in comfortably and then batter your heart.”

Demerit: “[One] story takes too long to develop sufficient surprise or conflict…”

Grade: A-


Helen Dunmore for The Guardian

Gold Star: “Every story within this novel bears the imprint of an extremely accomplished writer.”

Demerit: None

Grade: A+


Louis Bayard for Los Angeles Times

Gold Star: “But the chief pleasure in reading “A Possible Life” comes from feeling you can wander off with any of its characters, no matter how subsidiary, and find a story every bit as real and compelling as what’s on the page.”

Demerit: “As with any collection, some of Faulks’ stories leave a larger imprint than others.”



Anthony Cummins for The Telegraph

Gold Star: “In form and scope, Sebastian Faulks’s new novel is an unexpected delight.”

Demerit: None

Grade: A+


Doug Johnstone for The Independent

Gold Star: “Personally, I found that approach very moving, especially in the two stand-out stories…”

Demerit: “Faulks does attempt to link his stories both through theme and occasionally character or inanimate object, but those threads are so thin that they don’t carry the weight of the author’s ambition in this regard. The very occasional cross-pollination of characters and objects just seems gimmicky and clunky, while the theme is so tenuous and vague (the old Buddhist idea of “the interconnectedness of all things”) that it could be said to run through every story ever written about anyone at any time.”

Grade: B+

Review GPA: A (3.74)