What is it to be human? This question, as in Birdsong, is at the heart of Human Traces.
The story begins in Brittany where a young, poor boy somehow passes his medical exams and goes to Paris, where he attends the lectures of Charcot, the Parisian neurologist who set the world on its head in the 1870s. With a friend, he sets up a clinic in the mysterious mountain district of Carinthia in south-east Austria.
If The Girl at the Lion dOr was a simple three-movement symphony, Birdsong an opera, Charlotte Gray a complex four-movement symphony and On Green Dolphin Street a concerto, then Human Traces is a Wagnerian grand opera.
Faulks's latest novel, a 550 page epic that took him four years to write, is not so much a novel about the dawn of modern psychiatry, as a history of psychiatry wrapped around a novel. The grasp that Faulks has for his material is sometimes a little overwhelming, to the point that I must admit to skipping the occasional page here and there when one or another of his characters expounded on the latest theory of the day in particular depth! (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).
Faulks paints a tableux of 19th-century life that is remarkably revealing. Epic in scope, this is an imaginative look at the rise of medicine for the mind.
This is an enjoyable and edifying literary achievement, though probably not good beach reading.
Faulks marries extensive research with a satisfying narrative arc to create a novel that is compelling as both history and literature.
Booklist - Brad Hooper
Continually fascinating despite its density, this intellectual epic explores the uneasy relationship between madness and humanity.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by Valerie Slow and well written Well written but long and slow. While it was an okay read, I was looking forward to finishing it to read something else. It is an interesting portrayal of mental health at the turn 20th century.
Sebastian Faulks was born on 20 April 1953 and was educated in England at
Wellington College and Emmanuel College, Cambridge. He was the first literary
editor of The Independent (a leading British newspaper launched in 1986) and became deputy editor of the Independent on Sunday
before leaving in 1991 to concentrate on writing; he continues to contribute
articles and reviews to a number of newspapers and magazines.
He is well-known for his three novels set in wartime France: The Girl at the
Lion d'Or (1989), set between the First and Second World Wars, Birdsong
(1993), the story of a young Englishman and his
harrowing experiences fighting in northern France during the First World War;
and Charlotte Gray (1998), the adventures of a young Scottish woman
who becomes involved with the French resistance during the Second World War.
His more recent novels are On Green Dolphin Street (2001), a love story
set against the backdrop of the Cold War, and Human Traces (published in the
UK in 2005 and in...
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