- a penniless barrister with a schizophrenic brother falls in love with a female tube driver who plays Parallax (second life);
- the Moslem son of a lime pickle manufacturer plans a suicide attack; his father is invested with an OBE
- a bitchy book reviewer waits to see whether he has won a literary prize
- a foreign footballer plays his first matches for his new London club
- and a ruthless hedge fund manager plans to profit from the collapse of a bank while his son smokes skunk
These intertwined lives (there are too many links to be dismissed a coincidence) illustrate the moral bankruptcy of a nation. Faulks laments (several times) his thesis that teachers have given up believing in knowledge and culture. His Moslem fundamentalist sees society through the pitiless eyes of youth: he sees the binge drinking, the pathetic fumblings for sex mistaken for love, the shoddy materialism. And yet his failures such as the tube driver and her barrister boyfriend, suggest that frail, little farting humans, with all our sad illusions, are the only really human people. That what we should fear is certainty: the certainty of Hassan and his Prophet and the certainty of the banker. God and Mammon. Are we a tube train, hurtling through the darkness to rest for a few fragile moments in the light and noise of a station? Or are we a cyclist without lights, making pedestrians leap aside. And in the end, what do we have except love?
This was an interesting book. It kept me reading. But it didn't have the magic of the best the Faulks can do.
January 2011; 390 pages