Saturday, June 13, 2009

Farthing, by Jo Walton

Farthing, by Jo Walton

Imagine a world where England made peace with Nazi Germany after the Battle of Dunkirk and World War II never really happened. Hilter overtook all of continental Europe and got into a prolonged war with Stalin, still going strong in the 1949 of the book. Against this setting we find a murder of a senior Parliment official in the opening pages. There are two voices telling the story, with each chapter flipping between them. Lucy Khan, a member of the Peerage disgraced by marrying a Jew, and Inspector Carmichael, a lowborn detective at Scotland Yard. While ostensibly only one story, each character is actually telling a slightly different one: Carmichael goes about solving the mystery, but Khan is really describing the slide of England into fascism. The characterization was weak, with most people falling into one of three categories: good, evil, or stupid. This made the whodunnit aspect fairly straightforward; I thought it was obvious what happened only a few chapters in. The politics are what makes the book interesting, however, and are presented in such a fashion that a fascist Britain becomes a very believable thing.

One throw-away line that made me smile was when it was mentioned that Guy Philby became junior minister at the Foreign Office. The name Guy Philby is a mashup of Guy Burgess and Kim Philby of the Cambridge Five, the most successful espionage ring ever uncovered. Walton also refers to the famous “scientifiction” book Nineteen Seventy-Four; ironically it was purchased as a gift for the framed suspect to take his mind off the situation. If the content was similar to our Nineteen Eighty-Four then I suspect it won’t be much of a distraction!

Overall I enjoyed the book, although it was a bit heavy-handed in places. The ending was really good, however, with the author not taking the easy way out by granting the protagonists happy endings and having the villains exposed. Instead, we get a more realistic yet disturbing finish, setting up the next book in the series.

First Sentence:
It started when David came in from the lawn absolutely furious.


Klobetime said...

Another line I liked was, "Carmichael knew the first secret of command, which was making a decision, right or wrong, but going ahead without hesitating." I sure wish the executives of my current company subscribed to this theory!

crazyBobcat said...

I loved this book. I daresay that I preferred Ha'Penny to Farthing, but Farthing is an exciting, disturbing view of an alternate reality with wholly believable characters and a wonderfully brisk pace.

and, I love the fact that my word verfication is "boors" hah!

Search This Blog