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)
This book had a great premise, the alternate history was well thought out and the politics were believable without being too complicated to follow. The mystery aspect was interesting although not as mysterious as the author might like it to have been. I had two problems with the book. The first was how it was told part in first person and part in third person, it just didn't really work for me. More importantly, the book ended rather abruptly and left me really unfulfilled. I know that in real life everything doesn't wrap up all nice and tidy, but these are books. I took a peak at the review for the next book, and it doesn't seem to pick up on the same story. The ending was disappointing. Other than that it was great.
I love espionage, legal, and detective thrillers but listen to most genres. Very frequent reviews. No plot spoilers! Please excuse my typos!
In this alternate history in 1940 Britain seeks "peace with honor" with Hitler. Hitler does require some changes in Great Britain in his agreement not to invade and occupy the British Isles. War is ended.
This book is set in 1949 with Hitler still in power in Germany and most of continental Europe. The setting is in an England that is rabidly anti-Jew. Farthing is Book 1 in the 3 novel Small Change series. In the book the Jewish husband of an young English lady is framed, likely by her parents, for a murder. The ending, to the extent there is an ending, is sudden with nothing resolved as is often the case in a serialized series. I shall pass on the next two books in the Small Change trilogy. DEFINITELY NOT RECOMMENDED!
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.
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.
Farthing seems at first to be a comfortable English country house mystery. It quickly becomes unusually candid about toxic relationships, however. Our heroine, Lucy, heiress to all the money of a very large and historic English estate, hates her mother, and it becomes apparent that she is right to do so. She also has married a Jew, and this in an England twisted out of the shape it has in our world by an early peace settlement in 1941. The war did not last five years and Hitler was not defeated. Instead, the Rudolf Hess flight to Scotland in May 1941, widely believed by many to this day, including me, to have been a separate peace offer from Hitler (it is, after all, what Hess claimed at the time!) was in that alternative reality taken up by a clique called the "Farthing set" which out-maneuvered Winston Churchill, who intended to fight on and would have squelched the initiative and jailed Hess as a madman as in our reality. The best alternative histories have that one tiny change that is plausible: England ended the war early, in 1941, with the Farthing slogan "Peace With Honor" after a short negotiation with Hitler. The resonances with the earlier real-time appeasement by Chamberlain in Munich are obvious, and add to the plausibility.
The war continues in Russia for many years and Jews are persecuted all over central and eastern Europe, and are losing ground in England, which had a substantial Fascist constituency before WWII and does again, since that was never defeated. An apparent murder at Farthing by Jews and a terrorist attack on Farthing by Bolsheviks puts Lucy's husband David right in the crosshairs, where he is intended to be. Can they escape? The chapters alternate between Lucy's narration and that of Inspector Carmichael, and so the producers have used two readers, a woman and a man. The woman reader uses the sad, falling-voice technique that I felt was a problem in the reading of Hillary Mantel's "Wolf Hall," too. After all, much of the life of Thomas Cromwell went very well. And Lucy Kahn is a more resolute than sad heroine. The male reader is excellent and the female one is quite good except for that one habit. This novel is sexually complex, but there is no explicit sexual description whatsoever; it's mainly characterization. I think this novel would be very suitable for late teens and any age after that.
Lucy Eversley married David Kahn partly as adolescent rebellion at the stultified, restricted life she leads in the ultra-upper-class: even she realizes there is a component of rebellion. However, it's a real marriage: they fill out each other's lacks and they are extremely supportive of each other. She wants children and believes she is pregnant and is very happy about that. Therefore, the reader is both aghast and amused at the surprise she gets in the end: Lucy is definitely going to be paying her dues now and having an interesting life.
I recommend Farthing strongly and plan to listen to the other two "Small Change" novels in the series.
"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 listened to half of this book and couldn't finish. I didn't care who died, who did it or anybody else. The blurb talked about an alternate outcome to WWII but this is only touched upon in passing and never explored. An utter disappointment.
Solid, thoughtful, enjoyable.
On the surface, this is a murder mystery. But the alternate history setting provides an opportunity to explore how fragile humans are, and how willing to give in to prejudice.
No particular scene stood out. The story was consistent throughout with neither high nor low points.
No. It took a couple of weeks.
This is an enjoyable novel. I like the premise (what is the long term impact of small changes in our decisions). The story is theoretically about solving a murder. However, it's true purpose seems to be shining a light on people's relationships to power, privilege and fear.I felt the novel could have pushed harder. Everyone felt so civilized and polite in a world that is clearly rife with prejudice and persecution. The character of David seemed out of place (at least, I felt that this character could have been less 'stiff upper lip', given the passions he held and activities that he was clearly involved in).If nothing else, this novel is a good stepping on point for the very start of conversations about tolerance, diversity and equality. It will, by no means, give you a clear moral compass of this aspect of human nature, but it might just nudge you to begin a personal exploration in that direction.
I'm just this guy, y'know?
A very well-conceived and realized alternate history with an early WWII divergence point... watching a "democracy" slide into authoritarian repression? It might remind you of something if you're paying attention. ;)
I didn't realize it was part of a trilogy, but I loved it so I need to listen to the next two.
"Clumsy, stereotypical, dreadful narrators"
Nothing...it seems very amateur...poor characterization, anachronistic speech, badly researched, badly read.
Only by this author
Anyone who naturally spoke British English ...jarring accents, wrong emphasis, words mispronounced...irritating.
All of them...stereotypes with nothing interesting to offer.
Interesting premise but excecuted badly. Pebbles of 'historical' facts dropped in to a puddle of stereotypes. The readers leave a lot to be desired, accents slip, constantly jarring.
"Downton + Christie meet alternate WWII history."
The dual narrators were both superb! Bianca Amato's ever so, ever so posh reading of the posh country "gal", Lucy, who is in love with the wrong man, is great. I was rooting for Lucy and her decent husband from the start. But its equally matched by John Keating's reading of Inspector Carmichael the intelligent inspector who is sent to solve the murder at the country house Farthing. He's a believable character who is tasked into delving into other people's secrets when he has secret's of his own.
The obvious comparisons would be SS-GB by Len Deighton and Dominion by CJ Sansom as both these books are set during WWII but in an alternate time. However these two books deal with a Nazi invasion and this book is set in a world where the 'Farthing Peace" stalled the Nazi's at The English Channel. Please don't be
There isn't really a stand out scene but its great to see how both narrators begin to piece together the facts together and they realise the daunting truth.
Once again there isn't a particular scene but you can't help be moved by Lucy's love for David. How she chose to leave the stifling world of the upper classes to marry a man that her peers felt was a lesser man for being Jewish. The casual anti semitism and David's stoic refusal to be bowed by it, show him to be a far better person than the blue bloods of the "Farthing" set.
Please don't be put off by the term "Alternative History" this book is grounded in a very real and cruel world. If Churchill hadn't decided to carry on the fight in WWII, this could have easily been the course our country's history could have taken. The first part of book could be any closed room murder mystery written in the 20's or 30's its only later in the book that the book begins to resemble a 70's conspiracy thriller. Its excellent please give it a whirl!
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