Review: ‘A Possible Life’ by Sebastian Faulks

Sebastian Faulks

Set in five different places in five different times, ‘A Possible Life’ is unlike anything I’ve ever read. Rather than a single solid story, Faulks’ new work is a series of novellas  set in different space or time, however, joined by the idea that we are all ultimately connected. The back sleeve gives little of the content away, and instead presents the reader with a notion of how each of the parts interlink – “Every atom links us; Every feeling binds us; Every thought connects us.” Seemingly insignificant features of our everyday lives, be it a feeling, a person, or a place, join us together. All characters face a drastic and often heartbreaking change in their lives but still maintain their integrity , as if they are all the same atoms that  have had to be arranged in a slightly different way.

In the first novella of the collection, we witness the change in Geoffrey, a British operative in World War II, after his experience in a Nazi POW camp. The other metamorphoses include the stories of a man infatuated with an alluring musician, a young boy facing life in a Victorian workhouse, and a girl who thinks she is content with her own company until her family gets a new addition. What all of them have it common is the realisation of what has changed in them and the people in their lives. Moreover, the books raises questions of personal and collective identity and the possibility for humans to ever grasp the full meaning of life.

Billy, the voice of Part II: The Second Sister, best describes the feeling  ‘A Possible Life’ leaves the reader with: “I don’t think you ever understand your life – not till it’s finished and probably not then either. The more I live the less I seem to understand.”

Words by Lauren Brown

Sebastian Faulks’s website

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