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Twenty first century English writer, soul of a nineteenth century European

Faulks is a fine and brave writer, perhaps slightly out of time in an age wedded to instant, easy gratification.

This is not a ‘holiday’ read, its a book which asks the reader to work hard and to reflect Human Traces– which is not particularly something we expect our writers to do to us these days.

This book has a strong focus on the history of mental health approaches in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, and the philosophical implications of a theory of mind that arose from these treatments. Faulks weaves this into a wider discourse on ‘what it means to be human’ with explorations into anthropology, and the implications of Darwinism and Mendelism.

The breadth and seriousness of his approach (NOT I think just an exposition of ideas or showing off his research) within the novel form reminded me so much of nineteenth century French writers like Zola and Flaubert – and also of the ‘epic Russians’ Tolstoy and Dostoievsky.

There was a time (no I’m not THAT old!) when i expected all writing to be like this – to educate, move, inspire me and cause me to reflect more deeply – but I’m just not used to being asked to work this hard any more!

I am really pleased I accepted the challenge this book sets – perhaps Faulks will drive Sebastian Faulks photographed in Londonme back into the arms of those challenging nineteenth century Europeans once more – its actually been great to have this sort of ‘history of high purpose’ in a novel.

And for a book which has a lot of ‘loss’ and heartache within its pages, it left me feeling strangely in awe of us, and our potential – for good, and for ill.

Human Traces Amazon UK
Human Traces Amazon USA

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