OVERRIDE

A Possible Life

A Novel in Five Love Stories

Sebastian Faulks

Picador

FIVE TRANSPORTING STORIES AND FIVE UNFORGETTABLE LIVES, LINKED ACROSS CENTURIES

Throughout this masterpiece of fiction, 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 out of love, separations, and missed opportunities:

• Young Geoffrey Talbot meets dark-eyed Giselle in France during the Second World War. And his life veers off track forever.

• In a workhouse in Victorian London, Billy becomes lifelong companions with Alice—as well as with another girl.

• In rural France in the 1800s, orphaned Jeanne is devout and simpleminded, but still capable of making a tough decision about her affections.

• The brilliant twenty-first-century Italian scientist Elena Duranti collaborates on a startling discovery about human consciousness–and on an equally astonishing find about her only love.

• Long-haired and skinny Anya is an American singer-songwriter star in the 1970s. But how real is her life of guitars, lovers, stage fight, and travel if it is, foremost, raw material for her songs?

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.

FIVE TRANSPORTING STORIES AND FIVE UNFORGETTABLE LIVES, LINKED ACROSS CENTURIES

Throughout this masterpiece of fiction, 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 out of love, separations, and missed opportunities:

• Young Geoffrey Talbot meets dark-eyed Giselle in France during the Second World War. And his life veers off track forever.

• In a workhouse in Victorian London, Billy becomes lifelong companions with Alice—as well as with another girl.

• In rural France in the 1800s, orphaned Jeanne is devout and simpleminded, but still capable of making a tough decision about her affections.

• The brilliant twenty-first-century Italian scientist Elena Duranti collaborates on a startling discovery about human consciousness–and on an equally astonishing find about her only love.

• Long-haired and skinny Anya is an American singer-songwriter star in the 1970s. But how real is her life of guitars, lovers, stage fight, and travel if it is, foremost, raw material for her songs?

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.

BOOK EXCERPTS

Read an Excerpt

Part Five
Anya
1971

It was a hot evening in July, and I was sitting on the porch in a chair made from an old car seat. I had a six-string acoustic on my lap and was running my fingers up and down the fret board, gazing into the distance. There was a can of beer open on the deck. We didn’t count alcohol as a drug and American lager almost wasn’t beer. Lowri was inside the farmhouse, and through the closed insect door I could hear her singing. Janis and Grace, the dogs, were rooting around in the yard.

Times like this, I often used to just sit there and stare out

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  • Sebastian Faulks Introduces A Possible Life

    Sebastian Faulks Introduces A Possible Life

  • Sebastian Faulks Interviewed on NPR's Weekend Edition.

    Sebastian Faulks discusses A Possible Life on NPR's Weekend Edition.

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REVIEWS

Praise for A Possible Life

“It unsettles, it moves, and it forces us to question who we are.”—The Sunday Times (London)

“Distinctively moving...These stories sneak up on you, gently ingratiate themselves, get you settled in comfortably, and then batter your heart. Startling and strange, the sort of unsettling insight one gets from the finest of Flannery O’Connor’s work.”—The Washington Post

“Read this brilliant, deeply affecting book, and enjoy a master storyteller at work....Faulks works a kind of magic on the page.”—The Dallas Morning News

“Not unlike what David Mitchell did in Cloud Atlas...this book transcends pat tropes through the beauty and clarity of Faulks’s prose. Each world is drawn with precision, creating widely varied stories that are intensely absorbing....Highly recommended.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“The chief pleasure in reading A Possible Life comes from feeling you can wander off with any of its characters and find a story every bit as real and compelling as what's on the page.”—Los Angeles Times

A Possible Life is an examination of human souls and the impact the decisions we make have on our lives and futures. Had any of these characters chosen a different road, the outcome of their lives may have been forever altered. Faulks’s novel—or collection of novellas—succeeds because it does not overtly go out of its way to tie the five tales together.”—Bookreporter.com

“Each of the stories could stand on its own, and together, they show off Faulks’ versatility. Each of his characters has his or her own way of experiencing the world, and Faulks makes those different worlds realistically detailed and believable.”—Columbus Dispatch

A Possible Life is a rueful, pleasurable work, extremely sharp, with true insights into aging and loss."—USA Today

“Beautifully written...One could quibble over whether this is really a novel or a collection of stories, but that may be missing the point. For those of us who remember listening to music on albums, A Possible Life is most reminiscent of an LP—a gathering of distinct expressions that together make up a satisfying whole.”—BookPage

“These five stories are provocative meditations on love, loss, evil and what it means to be human, beautifully rendered by a prose master.”—Shelf Awareness

“Delicately crafted.”—Kirkus

“A tightly written, moving and exciting work of fiction that 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.”—Anthony Cummins, The Telegraph, UK

 
“Sebastian Faulks's fine new novel does not, at first glance, look like a novel at all—more like a gathering of stories, each one yielding a new character. Only gradually do we realize how these many voices, so far apart in time and place, fuse together and overlap, like songs on an album, to form a stirring and delicate whole. One of them speaks of merging 'the flame and the facts', our ardent yearnings with the hard detail of ordinary life. In Faulks's masterful hands, fact and flame become one.”—Anthony Lane, author of Nobody’s Perfect: Writings from The New Yorker
 
“This magnificent, complex, fine-grained book of stories is about love and loss in all its colors, in all its eras. I am best qualified to judge the final story Anya, which is one of the most authentic portrayals of a time and place—the early '70s in the folk-rock milieu, from a rural upstate New York, to Greenwich Village, to L.A.—I have ever read. We all have magical people in our pasts—glittery, fleeting, transformative: embarrassed secrets because our thrall to them was never quite reciprocated. This book liberates us from that embarrassment and reminds us that unrequited large-R-romance is a lot of what makes life worth living, and that such elegiac, flickering interludes can often be as emotionally permanent as those with the more steadfast people in our lives.”—Sheila Weller, author of New York Times bestseller Girls Like Us

“Bravura prose....Critics often underestimate Faulks’s versatility: his protean restlessness, half-disguised by mainstream bestsellerdom.”—Boyd Tonkin, The Independent (UK)

“So there’s quite a thesis here, quite a mystical proposition....[These stories] are united by all asking ‘whether individuals are ever really satisfactorily distinguished from one another or whether in fact we are all taking part in the same cosmic story, the same joined-up life.’ ...[They are] delicate, persuasive expressions.”—David Sexton, The London Evening Standard (UK)

“It unsettles, it moves, and it forces us to question who we are.”—The Sunday Times (London)

“Distinctively moving...These stories sneak up on you, gently ingratiate themselves, get you settled in comfortably, and then batter your heart. Startling and strange, the sort of unsettling insight one gets from the finest of Flannery O’Connor’s work.”—The Washington Post

“Read this brilliant, deeply affecting book, and enjoy a master storyteller at work....Faulks works a kind of magic on the page.”—The Dallas Morning News

“Not unlike what David Mitchell did in Cloud Atlas...this book transcends pat tropes through the beauty and clarity of Faulks’s prose. Each world is drawn with precision, creating widely varied stories that are intensely absorbing....Highly recommended.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“The chief pleasure in reading A Possible Life comes from feeling you can wander off with any of its characters and find a story every bit as real and compelling as what's on the page.”—Los Angeles Times

A Possible Life is an examination of human souls and the impact the decisions we make have on our lives and futures. Had any of these characters chosen a different road, the outcome of their lives may have been forever altered. Faulks’s novel—or collection of novellas—succeeds because it does not overtly go out of its way to tie the five tales together.”—Bookreporter.com

“Each of the stories could stand on its own, and together, they show off Faulks’ versatility. Each of his characters has his or her own way of experiencing the world, and Faulks makes those different worlds realistically detailed and believable.”—Columbus Dispatch

A Possible Life is a rueful, pleasurable work, extremely sharp, with true insights into aging and loss."—USA Today

“Beautifully written...One could quibble over whether this is really a novel or a collection of stories, but that may be missing the point. For those of us who remember listening to music on albums, A Possible Life is most reminiscent of an LP—a gathering of distinct expressions that together make up a satisfying whole.”—BookPage

“These five stories are provocative meditations on love, loss, evil and what it means to be human, beautifully rendered by a prose master.”—Shelf Awareness

“Delicately crafted.”—Kirkus

“A tightly written, moving and exciting work of fiction that 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.”—Anthony Cummins, The Telegraph, UK

 
“Sebastian Faulks's fine new novel does not, at first glance, look like a novel at all—more like a gathering of stories, each one yielding a new character. Only gradually do we realize how these many voices, so far apart in time and place, fuse together and overlap, like songs on an album, to form a stirring and delicate whole. One of them speaks of merging 'the flame and the facts', our ardent yearnings with the hard detail of ordinary life. In Faulks's masterful hands, fact and flame become one.”—Anthony Lane, author of Nobody’s Perfect: Writings from The New Yorker
 
“This magnificent, complex, fine-grained book of stories is about love and loss in all its colors, in all its eras. I am best qualified to judge the final story Anya, which is one of the most authentic portrayals of a time and place—the early '70s in the folk-rock milieu, from a rural upstate New York, to Greenwich Village, to L.A.—I have ever read. We all have magical people in our pasts—glittery, fleeting, transformative: embarrassed secrets because our thrall to them was never quite reciprocated. This book liberates us from that embarrassment and reminds us that unrequited large-R-romance is a lot of what makes life worth living, and that such elegiac, flickering interludes can often be as emotionally permanent as those with the more steadfast people in our lives.”—Sheila Weller, author of New York Times bestseller Girls Like Us

“Bravura prose....Critics often underestimate Faulks’s versatility: his protean restlessness, half-disguised by mainstream bestsellerdom.”—Boyd Tonkin, The Independent (UK)

“So there’s quite a thesis here, quite a mystical proposition....[These stories] are united by all asking ‘whether individuals are ever really satisfactorily distinguished from one another or whether in fact we are all taking part in the same cosmic story, the same joined-up life.’ ...[They are] delicate, persuasive expressions.”—David Sexton, The London Evening Standard (UK)

Reviews from Goodreads

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • Sebastian Faulks

  • Sebastian Faulks is the author of  ten novels. They include the UK number one bestseller A Week in December; Human Traces; On Green Dolphin Street; Charlotte Gray, which was made into a film starring Cate Blanchett; and the classic Birdsong, which has sold more than three million copies and was recently adapted for television. In 2008, he was invited to write a James Bond novel, Devil May Care, to mark the centenary of Ian Fleming. In between books he wrote and presented the four-part television series Faulks on Fiction for the BBC. He lives in London with his wife and their three children.
  • Sebastian Faulks Muir Vidler
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Available Formats and Book Details

A Possible Life

A Novel in Five Love Stories

Sebastian Faulks

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FROM THE PUBLISHER

Picador

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