A Possible Life

  • by Sebastian Faulks
  • Narrated by Rupert Degas, Samuel West, Christian Rodska, Sian Thomas, Lucy Briers
  • 10 hrs and 3 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Terrified, a young prisoner in the Second World War closes his eyes and pictures himself going out to bat on a sunlit cricket ground in Hampshire.
Across the courtyard in a Victorian workhouse, a father too ashamed to acknowledge his son. A skinny girl steps out of a Chevy with a guitar; her voice sends shivers through the skull.
Soldiers and lovers, parents and children, scientists and musicians risk their bodies and hearts in search of connection – some key to understanding what makes us the people we become. Provocative and profound, Sebastian Faulks’s dazzling novel journeys across continents and time to explore the chaos created by love, separation and missed opportunities. From the pain and drama of these highly particular lives emerges a mysterious consolation: the chance to feel your heart beat in someone else’s life.


What the Critics Say

“It’s rare to see an established writer broaden his range. A tightly written, moving and exciting work of fiction that deserves success, it should thrill established readers as well as win new fans. If you think you know Faulks – or even (and especially) if you haven’t enjoyed his previous novels – it’s time to look again.” (Daily Telegraph)
“It’s rare to see an established writer broaden his range. A tightly written, moving and exciting work of fiction that deserves success, it should thrill established readers as well as win new fans. If you think you know Faulks – or even (and especially) if you haven’t enjoyed his previous novels – it’s time to look again.” (Daily Telegraph)
“The novel engages you from page one… Each (character) is evoked with such heart-stopping immediacy that the result is extremely moving as well as fascinating.” (Reader’s Digest)
“Critics often underestimate Faulks’s versatility: his protean restlessness, half disguised by mainstream bestsellerdom… All these ‘possible’ lives, as they echo and overlap like Anya’s own motifs, add up (I suspect) to a portrait of the artist as he approaches 60.” (Independent)
“An investigation into the nature of shared human experience…it does what any good novel should - it unsettles, it moves, and it forces us to question who we are.” (The Sunday Times)
“Sublime…a hauntingly beautiful exploration of the frailties and strengths of the human heart.” (Easy Living)
“Within these pages we find some of his best writing.” (Literary Review)
"The writing is masterfully controlled, without a word wasted. Avoiding excess emotion, Faulks evokes a deep compassion for all his troubled characters and by extension, for all of us who share their condition. A Possible Life is a profound novel… exploring big ideas without compromising the human drama. It is also, ultimately an optimistic work." (Observer)
"Faulks is a writer who gets better and better; he understands how to draw a reader in." (Daily Mail)
"The storytelling is crisp, the characters sympathetic and the philosophical themes thought-provoking…" (Mail on Sunday )
"Like the albums whose sequencing Jack and Anya agonise over, A Possible Life is more than the sum of its parts… the stories acquire power as resonances between them accrete. Only at the end do you realise you’ve been won over by their quiet, glinting virtuosity." (The Times)
"Faulks deserves credit for his virtuosic vocal range and ability to capture the heartache and vitality, not to mention mystery, intrinsic to human existence." (Glasgow Herald)
"Faulks at his best is a superbly economical and unshowy creator of imagined worlds. They’re fully furnished… Faulks is to be admired for his ambition. What he’s getting at, from various different angles, is the million dollar question. What does selfhood mean?" (Financial Times)
"Faulks writes movingly about love and about the blind connections we make with others – in our families, but also within the legacies of literature, science and music – that will outlive us and mark out places in time forever." (Psychologies magazine)
"This is a hauntingly beautiful exploration of the frailties and strengths of the human heart." (Easy Living)
"Some people might regard this novel as a collection of five short stories but that would be to diminish not just the literary achievement here, but the fragmentary yet connected sense of life the author is trying to portray. In the strongly affecting end, you realise this novel had something of a valedictory tone throughout… it’s very hard not to like this most artful of novels." (Mirror)
"This is probably Faulk’s most intriguing fictional offering… very moving." (Independent on Sunday )
"Every story within this novel bears the imprint of an extremely accomplished writer." (Helen Dunmore, Guardian)
"Each of his characters undergoes a crisis followed by a metamorphosis. Each is forced by the experience to consider the patterns of memory and identity, attachment and loss that shape a life. Almost imperceptibly as the text unfolds, connections emerge. A landscape, an object, a building seems inexplicably familiar and we realise we have encountered it before. These lives, so different and detached in time and sensibility, are entwined… It is the kind of large portentous theme that could have produced a grandstanding novel. But Faulks addresses it with a finely observed humanity that is all the more powerful for its concentrated emotional restraint." (Sunday Telegraph)
‘Love, grief, divided loyalties and betrayal mark these lives… Faulks is not only making his readers work for their satisfaction, but offering an essentially religious rather than scientific way of looking at the big questions.’ (The Tablet)
"I much admired Sebastian Faulks’s A Possible Life. Faulks is almost always trying something new in his novels and you never quite know what to expect, even when you think you are in familiar territory." (Antony Beevor’s ‘Books for Christmas’ The Daily Telegraph)
"Sebastian Faulk’s latest A Possible Life – a series of five short stories sharing a commonality of place and the human condition – examines the nebulous idea that all things are interconnected. It looks particularly at the human ability for self-awareness, with one story depicting a research scientist who discovers a part of the brain where self-awareness resides. It’s a quiet book taking on a challenging subject in which the links between the stories are subtle and deliberately tenuous, and offers no obvious denouement." (Nick Nairn, chef, Sunday Herald)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

A Little Depressing

Five short stories all with the same theme, so possibly creating a whole. They were compelling and well narrated, but by the end I was thoroughly depressed! I think it fair to say that most people will experience a missed opportunity during their lifetime, but these handful of protagonists really made a meal of it. I prefer my reading to end on an up-beat.

Having said all this, I would still recommend this book, Sebastian Faulks is a superb writer, however, I wish I hadn't listened to them all in one go!
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- Pauline

A beautiful treat!

This is the first I've "read" from Sebastian Faulks and it has completely captivated me. I will have to spend at least one or two more credits on him in the near future. I never buy an audio book if I don't like the narration in the sample and this one was a bit of a gamble, as there's a different narrator for each story and you only get to hear one of the five in the sample. All five narrators, however, were excellent. Such amazing beauty, such insight and detail of characters, such compelling and vivid narration too from all the voices! Maybe with just one exception of the third story "Everything can be explained". I found that this one did not sound quite as convincing for me as the other four, some elements of it felt a bit contrived with the narration being a little dry. They could have got someone that can speak Italian and pronounce the names properly too. But in spite of all this, even here there was so much thought and such deep insight from different angles too, so it never felt dogmatic. And as for the other four novellas, I have simply not found any fault with them at all. This is the kind of read I especially like listening to and let myself be carried away by the amazing character in the voices and accents of the actors.
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- Borbála

Book Details

  • Release Date: 13-09-2012
  • Publisher: Random House Audiobooks