Excerpt from A Possible Life by Sebastian Faulks, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

A Possible Life

A Novel in Five Parts

By Sebastian Faulks

A Possible Life
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Hardcover: Dec 2012,
    304 pages.
    Paperback: Nov 2013,
    304 pages.

    Publication Information

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Elena Spagnolie

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt


Two more friends of Rick's showed up, plus Becky and Suzanne, and after we'd all eaten we went outside and sat on the grass. Rick and I took guitars and played a bit just to set the atmosphere, which was fairly mellow in any case, with red wine and some fat joints going round. It was still hot. We'd brought out a couple of hurricane lamps and some candles and you could see the moths zooming about crazily.

I remember so well how Rick laid down his guitar and stood up, smirking from ear to ear, like a kid who knows some stupendous news.

"Ladies and gentlemen," he said, bowing, his red cigarette-end arcing back in the flourish of his hand, "may I present to you something the like of which you have never heard before in your life, the unique . . . Anya King."

Anya, cross-legged and unsmiling, took up her own guitar and began to finger a few notes, stopping to tune the strings. She had a delicate picking touch with the right hand, and the sound of the instrument was ethereal. It wasn't the metal six-string tone we were all used to. I wondered whether it was the guitar itself or the tuning.

"Okay," she said. "I'll sing four songs. This first one's called 'Genevieve.' "

For a long half minute, the fingers picked with fussy precision, seeming to use the top three strings only. At last the thumb flushed an arpeggio, bringing the lower notes in for the first time, then it was back to the home chords, minor, frosty. And then came the voice. It was high and clear, much higher than her speaking voice. She went through the middle of each note like someone bursting soap bubbles with a pin. There was this terrible purity. The song was about a girl lost in the city, trying to make her way, and it was set in the dead of winter. And out there on the hot summer grass, all you could feel was the ice in your fingertips. You could feel the bone-freezing cold of the back alleys, hear the trash-can lids roll and the rattle of old fire escapes where the homeless sleep. In her song she built this fragile world, but hard, cold, made real by the force of her imaginative belief in it. She ended with a minor chord struck slowly down through all the strings, and lightly smacked down with her palm to stop the ring.

I had heard nothing like it in my life. Most of our group, sitting on the grass, were looking at their laps, fumbling, as though they didn't want to be the first to offer an opinion.

Anya coughed and plucked the A string, twisting the tuning peg, perhaps for something to do. "Okay," she said. "The second song is called 'You Next Time.' "

Where "Genevieve" had been sideways-on, like a short story about someone else, this song was so direct, so confessional it made you flinch. It was in the first person and it sounded as though it had been channeled that morning direct from her own experience. She'd loved a man she couldn't have, had given way to a cruel separation, but vowed to meet him in another life. "No mistake the second time around, / I will die and rise, the shadow on your wall, / My name will be the only one you call, / Oh, my darling, you next time." The emotional openness, the lack of self-protection, was a little frightening.

In the break between songs, Anya smiled her thanks for the friendly clapping, but didn't really seem interested in our response. I didn't like the third song so much. It was called "Reservation Town" and had a social edge. There was folk and protest music, a tinge of bluegrass, and it was less purely original. It had ancestry. What I did hear in this song, though, was the range of her voice. It wasn't just the three-octave span, it was the variety of tone when she went into the lower register. Here, the cold purity was touched by something warmer and more womanly. It was a beautiful sound. I'd always felt the best soul and pop singers, women more than men, had a few notes they needed to hit as often as possible. Anya had two or three of those notes where her mid-range met her lower that you just wanted to hear again and again. The word she sang could have been "toothpaste," it wouldn't have mattered; the sound was so exquisite it sent shivers through your skull.

Copyright © 2012 by Sebastian Faulks

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  
Sign up, win books!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Take This Man
    Take This Man
    by Brando Skyhorse
    "A chorus of six men calling me Son might sound ludicrous to you, but to me it's the sound of ...
  • Book Jacket: The Hundred-Year House
    The Hundred-Year House
    by Rebecca Makkai
    Rebecca Makkai's sophomore novel The Hundred-Year House could just have easily been titled ...
  • Book Jacket
    The Valley of Amazement
    by Amy Tan
    "Mirror, Mirror on the wall
    I am my mother after all!"


    In my pre-retirement days as a professor ...

First Impressions

Members read and review books ahead
of publication. See what they think
in First Impressions!

Books that
expand your
horizons.

Visitors can view a lot of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only

Find out more.

Book Discussions
Book Jacket

Tomlinson Hill
by Chris Tomlinson

Published Jul. 2014

Join the discussion!

Win this book!
Win The Angel of Losses

The Angel of Losses

"Family saga, mystery, and myth intersect in Feldman's debut novel." - Booklist

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

E C H A Silver L

and be entered to win..

Books thatinspire you.Handpicked.

Books you'll stay up all night reading; books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, books that will expand your mind and inspire you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.