Sebastian Faulks, an experienced journalist and novelist best known for Birdsong and On Green Dolphin Street, writes in a style that is always sophisticated and sometimes satirical, but he never fails to draw in readers looking for a good story. In A Week in December, Faulks brings the story to his hometown (though he lives in London, he has rarely written about the city before now) and chooses a familiar vehicle for his novel—the exploration of the lives of a number of diverse characters at a specific moment in time. It is the week before Christmas 2007, and the reader is introduced to several interesting people who have nothing in common save their shared mode of daily transportation—a London tube train whose driver guides a Circle Line train in a daily loop.
Faulks brilliantly creates a pattern—symbolic of modern urban life—in which seven fascinating characters struggle with climactic problems in deeply creative ways. It should not be said that the author inspires a rush of fast reading, the kind of book one cannot put down; instead he utilizes a more careful approach that allows for thoughtful analysis and depth. Each character is richly diverse—solid proof of the author’s admirable gift for creating fiction—and they come to life in different ways. How could a hedge fund manager find ties to a professional football player? How could an underworked lawyer given to speculation involve himself with a superficially successful book reviewer? What about a student who finds himself trapped in discussion of Islamist theory with a schoolboy hooked on reality TV? And how will the charismatic driver of the tube train, a young woman looking for love, fit into Faulks’ puzzle?
The answers just might be that none of these characters need the others to solve their problems, but their situations mirror those of many who will read this book and use it to re-examine their own unique predicaments in an outrageously modern, ever-interconnected society.
Dennis Lythgoe is a writer who has lived in Boston and Salt Lake City.