One summer weekend in 1949 - but not our 1949 - the well-connected "Farthing set", a group of upper-crust English families, enjoy a country retreat. Lucy is a minor daughter in one of those families; her parents were both leading figures in the group that overthrew Churchill and negotiated peace with Herr Hitler eight years before. Despite her parents' evident disapproval, Lucy is married - happily - to a London Jew. It was therefore quite a surprise to Lucy when she and her husband, David, found themselves invited to the retreat. It's even more startling when, on the retreat's first night, a major politician of the Farthing set is found gruesomely murdered, with abundant signs that the killing was ritualistic.
It quickly becomes clear to Lucy that she and David were brought to the retreat in order to pin the murder on him. Major political machinations are at stake, including an initiative in Parliament, supported by the Farthing set, to limit the right to vote to university graduates. But whoever's behind the murder, and the frame-up, didn't reckon on the principal investigator from Scotland Yard being a man with very private reasons for sympathizing with outcasts and looking beyond the obvious. As the trap slowly shuts on Lucy and David, they begin to see a way out - a way fraught with peril in a darkening world.
What if: listen to more in the Small Change trilogy.
©2006 Jo Walton (P)2011 Audible, Inc.
"If Le Carré scares you, try Jo Walton. Of course her brilliant story of a democracy selling itself out to fascism sixty years ago is just a mystery, just a thriller, just a fantasy--of course we know nothing like that could happen now. Don't we?" (Ursula K. Le Guin)
"Walton crosses genres without missing a beat with this stunningly powerful alternative history…. while the whodunit plot is compelling, it's the convincing portrait of a country's incremental slide into fascism that makes this novel a standout. Mainstream readers should be enthralled as well." (Publishers Weekly)
"Farthing" starts like a tea cozy. As it continues, World political influences come into play as Hitler, fear of Jews and Bolsheviks play out on the British upper class potentates. As it ends, Farthing becomes a commentary on all of us, on morality, on the tradeoffs we make- while still retaining the book's character as a period mystery. It is so much more. And so beautifully transitioned
I could tell this book was good when I found myself unable to sleep worrying about the fate of the characters.
What the author does so well is capitalize on our desire to believe in the inherent good of people. The same complacent hope/belief the characters cling to even as hope becomes a noose.
It's astounding to me that Jo Walton can write fantasy (Among Others), faux Victoriana (Tooth and Claw), and then turn around and write a country house murder/political thriller with the added twist of being set in an alternate Britain that made peace with Hitler. The ordinariness of the beginning adds to the scariness of creeping totalitarianism. And although the setting is the 1940's, the debate about restricting liberties to protect the country from terrorism is very relevant. Both narrators were very good, which I can't always say. I immediately started listening to the sequel.
As Hitler's influence reigns, the well-bred British dance around their prejudices. Where is truth when the country is in flux? Whose truth wins?
I thought the book was a murder mystery, and the plot develops toward that end. However, I saw the ending as more of a social commentary on political structure of the " alternative England."
I have not but enjoyed their both of their performances.
This is not a " who done it " book.
in the top 20
the choices Carmichael is forced into. The cold comfort of being right, is often the choice you can not have but it's life. Sometimes we can never really see a true hero
the nuances of the British speech and attitudes are essential for the story I think.
I can't think of a good one except maybe. The evil that happens when GOD blinks.
nicely written and chilling book. The "what might have happened" type of WWII police mystery that pulls in all directions. Makes me want to thank all that are left of the WWII survivors. Freedom is never free.
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