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Faulks on Fiction by Sebastian Faulks

Sue Baker's view...

One of our Great Reads you may have missed in 2011.

After reading this collection of essays I enjoyed seeing the BBC2 series with Sebastian Faulks describing some of the most memorable heroes and villains from the English Novel. Characters that have become part of our lives, many like Sherlock Holmes, Mr Darcy and Jeeves inhabiting that hazy ground between fiction and reality. Ranging across 250 years, Sebastian Faulks’ passion and opinions should spark many readers and viewers into re-examining the novels for themselves.

The Lovereading view...

Faulks on Fiction is bestselling author Sebastian Faulks' personal journey through British literary history, in which he explores some of the most memorable characters ever to spark readers' imaginations and examines the lasting impact of the characters from the greatest novels on the British psyche.

From Sebastian Faulks:

'The characters who appear in these pages are still alive to me and thousands, probably millions, of readers. I hope this book can at least be read as a prolonged and heartfelt thank you letter from a reader for all that he has learned from living people created in the minds of others.'

Like for Like Reading:
Curiosities of Literature, John Sutherland
How Fiction Works, James Wood

If you like Sebastian Faulks you might also like to read books by Pat Barker, Ken Kesey and Rebecca West.

Who is Sue Baker


Faulks on Fiction by Sebastian Faulks

The British invented the novel, with the publication of Robinson Crusoe in 1719 marking the arrival of a revolutionary and distinctly modern form of art. But it's also true, as Sebastian Faulks argues in this remarkable book, that the novel helped invent the British: for the first time we had stories that reflected the experiences of ordinary people, with characters in which we could find our reality, our understanding and our escape. In The Secret Life of the Novel , Faulks examines many of these enduring fictional characters from over the centuries - Heroes from Tom Jones to John Self, Lovers from Mr Darcy to Lady Chatterly, Villains from Fagin to Barbara Covett, and Snobs from Emma Woodhouse to James Bond - and shows us how they mapped and inspired the British psyche, and continue to do so. Published to coincide with a major BBC series, The Secret Life of the Novel is an engaging and opinionated look at the psychology of the British through their literature, and a unique social history of Britain from one of our most respected writers. Characters included in the book are: Heroes - Robinson Crusoe, Tom Jones, Becky Sharp, Sherlock Holmes, Winston Smith ( 1984 ), Jim Dixon ( Lucky Jim ), and John Self ( Money ); Lovers - Mr. Darcy, Heathcliff, Tess of the D'Urbervilles, Lady Chatterley, Maurice Bendrix ( End of the Affair ), Anna Wulf ( The Golden Notebook ), Nick Guest ( The Line of Beauty ); Snobs - Emma Woodhouse, Pip ( Great Expectations ), Charles Pooter ( Diary of a Nobody ), Jeeves, Jean Brodie, James Bond, Chanu ( Brick Lane ); and, Villains - Richard Lovelace ( Clarissa ), Fagin, Count Fosco ( The Woman in White ), Steerpike ( Gormenghast Trilogy ), Ronald Merrick ( The Raj Quartet'), Jack Merridew ( Lord of the Flies ), and Barbara Covett ( Notes on a Scandal ).

Browse inside this book


Faulks on Fiction is not intended as a formal history of the British novel, but it is much more worthwhile and enjoyable than any history of the novel I have read. -- John Carey * The Sunday Times * Faulks on Fiction is a fine reminder of why you love the characters you do; and it will serve as an introduction to new friends, too -- Erica Wagner * The Times *

Faulks on Fiction revels in the creation of vital, unruly characters -- Boyd Tonkin * The Independent * Full of personal anecdotes and warm-blooded opinions. -- Sam Leith * The Spectator * It's like finding yourself transported into an intelligent debate about your favourite books... Superb. * London Evening Standard *

About the Author

Sebastian Faulks

Sebastian Faulks was born and brought up in Newbury, Berkshire. He worked in journalism before starting to write books. He is best known for the French trilogy, The Girl at the Lion d'Or, Birdsong and Charlotte Gray (1989-1997) and is also the author of a triple biography, The Fatal Englishman (1996); a small book of literary parodies, Pistache (2006); and the novels Human Traces (2005) and Engleby (2007). He lives in London with his wife and their three children. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1993 and appointed CBE for services to literature in 2002. He lives in London with his wife and their three children.

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Book Info

Publication date

1st September 2011


Sebastian Faulks

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BBC Books an imprint of Ebury Press


384 pages


Literary Fiction
Biography / Autobiography
eBook Favourites

Literary studies: fiction, novelists & prose writers



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