No two persons ever read the same book. --Edmund Wilson

Thursday, March 31, 2011

2011/15: Farthing -- Jo Walton

[He] could just drift into murder and fascism, but I refused that entirely, for myself and for the future. It was the way I'd thought before, about living in a tiny flower garden in the midst of fields of manure. I couldn't close my eyes to the fact that keeping the flower garden meant pushing other people off into the manure. (p.306)
  1. 1949, but not as we know it: 'the border of the Third Reich stops at the Channel' (19) and this is not least because of the efforts of Sir James Thirkie, who in 1941 negotiated "Peace with Honour" with Hitler.
  2. George Orwell's latest novel is called Nineteen Seventy-Four, because he wrote it a year earlier ...
  3. A country-house murder: Farthing House has given its name to a COnservative clique who dominate British politics. The interpersonal relationships of the Farthing Set are as complex and sordid as anything from a Sayers novel, with Bognor and Macedonia -- sorry, adultery and bisexuality -- complicating matters at every turn.
  4. The rigid class system, in our reality smoothed away by the war and its aftermath, is still going strong. It still amazed Carmichael sometimes that this kind of luxury should exist side by side with the world he usually saw where most people barely had enough to eat. (p.127)
  5. Anti-semitism is endemic. Lucy, one of the two narrators, is married to David who's a Jewish banker. It turns out she doesn't know quite as much about him as she thought, but that works both ways.
  6. Homosexuality is illegal, but a great many characters are gay or bisexual (and thus easily blackmailed). Possibly there are disproportionately many gay characters: it detracts from the impact.
  7. Part of the novel concerns getting Jews out of Europe -- to Canada, since America has thrown in its lot with the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, and closed its borders to Jewish refugees.
  8. Two viewpoint characters, Lucy and Carmichael -- she sees through him, he doesn't understand her at all
  9. Ultimately, Farthing is about how easy it is for even the well-intentioned to stand aside while injustice and genocide are perpetrated
  10. Ends on something of a cliffhanger, but not one that pertains to the plot: I'm not sure it will be resolved in the subsequent volumes of the trilogy.

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