Summary and book reviews of Farthing by Jo Walton

Farthing

By Jo Walton

Farthing
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  • Hardcover: Aug 2006,
    320 pages.
    Paperback: Aug 2007,
    320 pages.

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Book Summary

Over a summers weekend in 1949 -- but not our 1949 -- the upper-crust "Farthing set," the group that overthrew Churchill and negotiated peace with Hitler eight years before, enjoys a country retreat. Lucy is a minor daughter of two politicians in the group; since her marriage to a London Jew, relations have been strained. So she's surprised when she and husband David are invited for the weekend.

Then, overnight, a different member of the set is found murdered, with abundant signs that the killing was ritualistic. As the authorities begin to investigate, it becomes clear to Lucy and David that they were invited in order to pin the murder on David. But whoever devised this conspiracy didn't reckon on the man from Scotland Yard being someone with his own private reasons for sympathizing with outcasts and looking beyond the obvious. 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.

More than an alternate-history story, more than a drawing-room mystery, Farthing is a compelling story of encroaching darkness and the people who ultimately decide to resist it.

Chapter 1

"Then are you sure you didn’t marry me for the opposite reason?" David asked, ignoring the diversion. "Especially so you could use me to enjoy snubbing people like Lady Thirkie?"

"That’s absurd," I said, and turned back to the mirror, and this time I caught up my hair and the pearls all in one swirl and managed to get it just right where all my careful trying before had failed. I smiled at my reflection, and at David where he was standing behind me.

There was a certain grain of truth in what he said, but a very distant grain that wouldn’t be good for either of us or for our marriage if we spent time dwelling on it. Daddy had made me face all that on the night he’d agreed to the marriage going ahead. David had imagined that Daddy would make endless difficulties, but in fact he just gave me that one really hard talk and then buckled down and accepted David as one of the family. It was Mummy who made the difficulties, as I’d ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse

This is a fine, thought provoking book, easily on a par with Philip Roth's The Plot Against America.   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

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Media Reviews
Author Blurb Harry Turtledove
Farthing is a quietly convincing horror, a tale of a world that might have been and that we're damned lucky we never really saw. Read it, think about it, and count your blessings.

Author Blurb Ursula K. Le Guin
“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?”

Kirkus Reviews

Despite a rather fumbling approach, Walton's sinister political conspiracies pack a considerable wallop.

Library Journal

An excellent example of alternate history that belongs in most sf collections.

Booklist

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.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. 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.

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Beyond the Book

Jo Walton is the author of The King's Peace (2000), The King's Name (2001), The Prize in the Game (2002), Tooth and Claw (2003), Muses and Lurkers (collection, 2001) and Farthing. She won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 2002, and the World Fantasy Award for Tooth and Claw in 2004. Her style is to take a familiar element and pair it with the unfamiliar in order to put a new and interesting spin on things. For example, in Tooth and Claw she mixed elements of Anthony Trollope's Victorian society with dragons to create a story that Booklist described...

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