A Story of a World That Could Have Been
By Jo Walton
Tor Books, Paperback, 9780765323132, 320pp.
Publication Date: March 12, 2013
First published in 2006, Jo Walton's "Farthing" was hailed as a masterpiece, a darkly romantic thriller set in an alternate postwar England sliding into fascism.
Eight years after they overthrew Churchill and led Britain into a separate peace with Hitler, the upper-crust families of the "Farthing set" are gathered for a weekend retreat. Among them is estranged Farthing scion Lucy Kahn, who can't understand why her and her husband David's presence was so forcefully requested. Then the country-house idyll is interrupted when the eminent Sir James Thirkie is found murdered with a yellow Star of David pinned to his chest.
Lucy begins to realize that her Jewish husband is about to be framed for the crime an outcome that would be convenient for altogether too many of the various political machinations underway in Parliament in the coming week. 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 underdogs and prone to look beyond the obvious as a result.
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.
“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
“Stunningly powerful…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, starred review
“Amazing… One of the most compelling and chilling books of the year.”
—RT Book Reviews
“A subversive, trenchant and simultaneously dark and light piece of speculative fiction. Can I get an amen? …The parallels between her Britain and today’s climate are never didactic and always effective. It’s also a book about husbands and wives, and about class and sex. It is quite an achievement, brothers and sisters. Hallelujah.”
“A stiff-upper-lip whodunit boasting political intrigue and uncomfortable truths about anti-Semitism.”
“Walton realizes an all-too-convincing alternate world in which the Third Reich but not its spirit was stopped at the English Channel. The characters are highly plausible, and in every aspect from the petty snobbery hampering the inspector to the we-don’t-do-that-here conclusion, the plot encourages warily reconsidering the daily news.”
“A beautifully-written alternate history thriller by World Fantasy Award-winner Jo Walton, Farthing is a smart, convincing tale of a country’s slide into fascism that’s sure to entertain casual and genre readers alike.”