The week in December of the title occurs shortly after the financial crash of 2008. The book gives us a tranche of modern day life in London. We follow eight main characters and a few minor ones. An MP and his wife have arranged an extravagant dinner party at the end of the week involving most of the characters we are following. We don’t learn a lot about the MP or his wife of even the party he represents.
We are introduced to Jenni a mixed race tube driver, John Veals, a hedge fund manager, R Tranter a bitter book reviewer, Finn, a skunk smoking teen hooked on reality TV, Tadeusz “Spike” Borowski a Polish footballer playing for an unnamed London Premiership club, Farook “Knocker” Rashid a lime pickle entrepreneur, his son, Hassan a wannabe terrorist, a lawyer with too few clients and various minor characters.
We sense in the narrative that Faulks is taking swipes at some of his pet hates:
- financiers earning obscene amounts of money from creating ever new financial products, with the aim of feathering their nests at any cost. Veals, the hedge fund manager is one of the more interesting characters, obsessed by his job, he had graduated from helping his bookmaking uncle to trading in many obscure and largely unregulated financial products, in New York and then in London, it is clear what is legal and what is ethical are far removed from each other.
- book reviewers, Tranter is acidic in his reviews of other writers, this stems from his own failed attempt as a novelist. Faulks is also poking fun at some of the book awards and how they are judged.
- the Wahabbi influence on some Muslim youths, who follow an obscure interpretation of the Koran, a book the lawyer, Gabriel finds puzzling and lacking in the pleasant stories of the Bible.
Some of the characters seem a little stereotypical at times but there is a lot of humour, there is also sadness and anger.
This is a difficult book to rate, I thought the threads could be drawn together better and it was a little preachy at times but it held my attention and was a brave attempt to create a snapshot of contemporary London.
There are many alternative names used for popular culture phenomena, Second Life is Parallax, a Big Brother type TV show is the Barking Bungalow, Facebook is Yourplace, Girls Aloud are Girls from Behind etc…
My rating 4 out of 5 (which maybe a little on the generous side, but then I’m not the vindictive R Tranter)