Excerpt from Human Traces by Sebastian Faulks, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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

Human Traces

A Novel

by Sebastian Faulks

Human Traces
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Sep 2006, 576 pages
    Paperback:
    Aug 2006, 618 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
BookBrowse Review Team

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt


'Olivier? Please. It's raining. Where are you?'

Wary of the horse, who lashed out with her hind legs if frightened, Jacques freed the bolt of the door himself and made his way into the ripe darkness of the stable.

Sitting with his back to the wall, his legs spread wide apart on the dung-strewn ground, was his brother.

'I've brought your dinner. How are you?'

Jacques squatted down next to him.

Olivier stared straight ahead, as though unaware that anyone was there. Jacques took his brother's hand and wrapped the fingers round the edge of the soup bowl, noticing what could be smears of excrement on the nails. Olivier moved his head from side to side, thrusting it back hard against the stable wall. He muttered something Jacques could not make out and began to scrape at his inner forearm as if trying to rid himself of a bothersome insect.

Jacques took a spoonful of the soup and held it up to Olivier's face. Gently, he prised open his lips and pushed the metal inwards. It was too dark to see how much went into his mouth and how much trickled down his tangled beard.

'They want me to come, they keep telling me. But why should I go, when they know everything already?'

'Who, Olivier? Who does?'

Their eyes met. Jacques felt himself summed up and dismissed from Olivier's mental presence.

'Are you cold? Do you want more blankets?'

Olivier became earnest.'Yes, yes, that's it, you've got to keep warm, you've to wrap up now the winter's coming. Look. Look at this.' He held up the frayed horse blanket beneath which he slept and examined it closely, as though he had not seen it before or had suddenly been struck by its workmanship.

Then his vigour was quenched again and his gaze became still.

Jacques took his hand. 'Listen, Olivier. It's nearly a year now that you've been in here. Do you think you could try again? Why don't you come out for a few minutes? I could help.'

'They don't want me.'

'You always say that. But perhaps they'd be happy to have you back in the house.'

'They won't let me go.'

Jacques nodded. Olivier was clearly talking of a different 'they', and he was too frightened to contradict or to press him. He had been a child when Olivier, four years the older, started to drift away from his family; it began when, previously a lively and sociable youth, he took to passing the evenings alone in his room studying the Bible and drawing up a chart of 'astral influences'. Jacques was fascinated by the diagrams, which Olivier had done in his clever draughtsman's hand, using pens he had taken from the hôtel de ville, where he worked as a clerk.

Jacques's experiences had usually come to him first through the descriptions of Olivier, who naturally anticipated all of them. Mathematics at school were a jumble of pointless signs, he said, that made you want to cry out; being beaten by the master's ruler on the knuckles hurt more than being kicked on the shin by the broody mare. Olivier had never been to Paris, but Vannes, he told Jacques, was so huge that you got lost the moment you let your concentration go; and it was full of women who looked at you in a strange way. When changes came to your body, Olivier said, you noticed nothing, no hairs bursting the skin, no wrench in your voice; the only difference was that you felt urgent, tense, all the time, as though about to leap a stream or jump from a high rock.

Olivier's chart of astral influences therefore looked to Jacques like another early glimpse of a universal human experience granted to him by his elder brother. Olivier had been right about everything else: in Vannes, Jacques kept himself orientated at all times, like a dog sniffing the wind; he liked mathematics, though he saw what Oliver had meant. He avoided the master's beatings.

Excerpted from Human Traces by Sebastian Faulks Copyright © 2005 by Sebastian Faulks. Excerpted by permission of Random House, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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
    •  

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Romanovs
    The Romanovs
    by Simon Sebag Montefiore
    The Romanovs chronicles the reigns of the 20 individuals who were considered members of that dynasty...
  • Book Jacket: Barkskins
    Barkskins
    by Annie Proulx
    Barkskins, by Annie Proulx, is not a book to read quickly. After a month of slow reading, I ...
  • Book Jacket
    The Marriage of Opposites
    by Alice Hoffman
    Alice Hoffman's latest work, The Marriage of Opposites, is a historical fiction novel focusing on ...

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    The Imperial Wife
    by Irina Reyn

    A smart, engaging novel that parallels two fascinating worlds and two singular women.

    Read Member Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    All Is Not Forgotten
    by Wendy Walker

    This is fast-paced psychological suspense/thriller at it's very best.

    Read Member Reviews

Members review books pre-publication. Read their opinions in First Impressions

Book Discussions
Book Jacket
Sweet Caress
by William Boyd

William Boyd's Sweet Caress captures an entire lifetime unforgettably within its pages. It captivates.

About the book
Join the discussion!
Summer Stunner
Summer Giveaway

Win 5 books, each week in July!

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

W M T N, W C F All

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

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

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.

 
X

BookBrowse Summer Giveaway

We're giving away
5 books every
week in July!