The Fatal Englishman
Three Short Lives
By Sebastian Faulks
Vintage, Paperback, 9780375727443, 336pp.
Publication Date: March 12, 2002
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Christopher Wood, only twenty-nine when he killed himself, was a painter who lived most of his short life in the beau monde of 1920s Paris, where his charm, good looks, and the dissolute life that followed them sometimes frustrated his ambition and achievement as an artist.
Richard Hillary was a WWII fighter pilot who wrote a classic account of his
experiences, "The Last Enemy, " but died in a mysterious training accident while defying doctor's orders to stay grounded after horrific burn injuries; he was twenty-three.
Jeremy Wolfenden, hailed by his contemporaries as the brightest Englishman of
his generation, rejected the call of academia to become a hack journalist in Cold War Moscow. A spy, alcoholic, and open homosexual at a time when such activity was still illegal, he died at the age of thirty-one, a victim of his own recklessness and of the peculiar pressures of his time.
Through the lives of these doomed young men, Faulks paints an oblique
portrait of English society as it changed in the twentieth century, from the Victorian era to the modern world.
“Compelling and stunningly written.” –The Times (London)
“Faulks is a prodigiously talented writer.” –The New York Times
“You may not have heard of the subjects of these three essays, but please do not let that hinder you. . . . [Faulks’s] spare narrative hides a commitment to his subjects which pulls you in and leaves you gasping for these lost lives.” –Mail on Sunday
“Flawless. . . . Poetic. . . . Superbly portrayed. . . . [Faulks’s] feat of imagination . . . is phenomenal.” –Daily Telegraph