I wasn't sure about this book, not being a real fantasy fan, but it did have a mystery in it, and it was on sale. So I bought it, and am I glad I did..Show More »! Jo Walton has crafted a mystery set in England in an alternate history, where a group called the "Farthing Set" deposed Churchill and negotiated a "peace with honor" with Hitler in 1941, in which Hitler stayed on the other side of the Channel and England remained "independent" by agreeing to measures which amount to a milder form of suppression of Jews and homosexuals than that in place in continental Europe.
The action takes place in 1948, when a vote of no confidence is scheduled in Parliament. At a house party at Farthing, the estate of some members of the Farthing Set, the man who is likely to be elected the next Prime Minister is murdered. Lucy, the daughter of Farthing's owners, and her husband David Kahn, a Jew, have come to the party at the insistence of Lucy's mother. It's not clear why they are invited until it becomes obvious that they were wanted there in order to pin the murder on David, the JEW.
The mystery story is quite good, but the real point of the book is the picture of an England which is sliding slowly and inexorably into Facsism through the machinations of the power elite (the Farthing Set) and the willingness of the public to believe the lies of the ruling politicians. Through the course of this book and the second book in this series, the suppression of Jews and homosexuals becomes more extreme, and many have been forced to flee or hide. And people in positions like police detectives are coerced into blaming the crimes of the powerful on the people with no power. Meanwhile, of course, Hitler is still Fuhrer of all of Europe, undesirables are still sent to work camps, and the war is still raging between Germany and Russia.
The story is greatly enhanced by the two narrators, John Keating and Bianca Amato. The book is written in chapters which alternate between the narration of Lucy Kahn and the third party narration of the investigation conducted by Inspector Carmichael of Scotland Yard, making the alternating narrators particularly appropriate. Both do a sterling job.
This is really a gripping tale, very complex and disquieting but definitely worth the money and the time to listen to it. Excellent!
This is a sequel to Farthing, and is followed by Half a Crown. It occurs right after the first book and features Inspector Carmichael. The other part ..Show More »of the story involves the theater world, which in some ways is a metaphor for all the acting and pretending and shams in this alternate history. It's quite gripping and I had to instantly go to the 3rd book. The narration is excellent, not over the top, just letting the dramatic events speak for themselves.
This is the third volume in Jo Walton's Small Change series and presents us with the world shaped by Britain making peace with Germany in 1940 and all..Show More » of the subsequent changes from the world we know now. All of the three volumes are placed in the UK and there is almost no mention of the world outside of the UK except for occasional references to Hitler's Europe, the Japanese and the US which, since it was never involved in a world-wide conflict, is not a major power. As with the previous volumes this story is presented through two voices, one is Peter Carmichael, now the head of The Watch, which is the British version of The Gestapo, and the other his "niece" who is actually his ward and the daughter of a police sergeant who was killed on duty years earlier.
The tone of this book, as with the previous books in this series, is one of increasing dread as the story progresses. Step by step we feel the threads of danger constantly creeping up and ensnaring the characters until it becomes clear that terrible things are going to happen and, as with the previous books, the background evil of the existing fascist British government is presented in such a matter-of-fact and banal manner that it is much worse than if it were dwelled upon. The book is superb in the way it presents the world to us and draws us in to the transpiring events and, in doing so, mimics the first two books which had exactly the same quality. In fact I put off reading this book for many months, not because I did not want to read it, but because I did not want to finish the series too quickly.
The one odd thing about the book is the vacuousness of the lead female character, Elvira Royston. She is a young debutante about to be presented to The Queen at her “coming out” and her head is filled with the trivia of of innocent youth. She is terribly naive and does not does seem to have had a single political thought in her head and consequently does truly stupid things, given the world around her, and consequently is the source of the danger that grows around Peter Carmichael. As with the Viola Larkin character in the second volume of this series, it is very hard to be sympathetic to the female characters since both seems to be so shallow. You know, as you read, that Elvira is going to get all of those around her in serious danger and I found it hard to believe that anyone, even that young, could be so complacent, ignorant and empty-headed.
It is easy to say that the head of the British Gestapo could not possibly be a sympathetic character but Peter Carmichael is exactly that - a good man put into an impossible position trying against all of the odds to do the right thing.
I presume this is the last volume in the series, however the ending provided enough of an opening for the author to write one or two more volumes about the world created by the events at the end of the book. While I was a bit disappointed by the pat ending I would almost certainly buy any books by the author which followed the story beyond that ending. The world created by the book, and the writing, just make it very difficult to not want to read more.
I gave the first two books in this series a hearty 5 star rating, but felt that this volume only deserved 4 stars due to the way the story ended. Both of the previous volumes ended in realistic and believable ways, but this book ends in a way hard to credit and consequently hard to believe. Not in a “bad” way, but in a way that was just a bit too pat and easy. The narration, as with the previous volumes, was first class and I would like to have been able to give this book 4 1/2 stars but, since there is no such rating, 4 will have to do. While a bit disappointing on its own, it is well worth reading if someone has already read the wonderful first two volumes.