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.
Recommend this book
Add your recommendation
Only registered users can recommend books. Please use the buttons below to either create a new account, or sign-in to an existing account.
In form and scope, Sebastian Faulks's new novel is an unexpected delight . . . There’s little sense of Faulks overreaching with heavily researched detail . . . you trust the narrative whether it is set in a workhouse or a death camp or a recording studio . . . 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. - Telegraph
Like the albums that 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
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 - Sunday Times
These stories are delicate, persuasive expressions of one of the melancholies of ageing – the sorry realisation that your life has after all not been as distinctive as it felt at the time, a realisation perhaps best met by the hope that the very communality of life can yet be treasured. - Evening Standard
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
Delicate, persuasive expressions of one of the melancholies of ageing – the sorry realization that your life has after all not been so distinctive as it felt at the time, a realization perhaps best met by the hope that the very communality of life can yet be treasured. - Scotland on Sunday
Within these pages we find some of his best writing. - Literary Review
Sublime . . . a hauntingly beautiful exploration of the frailties and strengths of the human heart - Easy Living
Stunning - Essentials
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. We may be no more than matter but we can, in various ways, outlive our short lifespan, perhaps never knowing how far our ripples will reach. - 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
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 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
It’s a measure of our collective humanity – what really binds us – coupled with the old chestnut of consciousness, which Sebastian Faulks takes as the literary architecture for his ambitious, thought provoking ninth novel . . . 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. - 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. - Tablet
Sebastian Faulks was born and brought up in Newbury, Berkshire. He worked in journalism before starting to write books. He is best known for the French trilogy, The Girl at the Lion d'Or, Birdsong and CharlotteGray (1989-1997) and is also the author of a triple biography, The Fatal Englishman (1996); a small book of literary parodies, Pistache (2006); and the novels HumanTraces (2005), Engleby (2007) and A Week in December (2009). He lives in London with his wife and their three children.