Sebastian Faulks is a victim of his own brilliance. After Stephen and Isabelle and Frank and Mary you’d have to concede that he’d have been hard pressed to come up with three in a row. Especially when the love story is only stocking filler – I mean the real narrative is (always) about war;
This time it’s WWII – and in particular France’s occupation and the ambivalence of her citizens. I actually did learn rather a lot; it’s historical fiction and Faulks is a master of the genre afterall. Charlotte Gray is a British agent ostensibly working for the French resistance movement but simultaneously seeking to locate and rescue her lover, a British pilot missing in action whose name (tellingly) I forget. The plot focuses primarily on this quietly confident, though somewhat melancholic character, interwoven with reflections on her relationship with her Veteren father who in time she finally comes to understand. Meanwhile “whatshisname” remains an empty canvas – merely a rugged, talented pilot in his prime.
I know what you’re thinking. I wasn’t invested in the love story, so I couldn’t invest at all, and how shallow does that make me? Why don’t I just run out and buy myself the nearest pink-frilled chick-lit titled “I don’t know how he does it”. It’s true, I’m not going to defend myself. What can I say? I guess I like the fact that Mary still stalks around the halls of my mind, occasionally slamming doors and making her presence in my mind known, while Frank looks on knowingly as he stands beside a swing in the backyard. I guess character authenticity is an essential ingredient for me.
But comfort food is still comfort food. And I’ll read Sebastian Faullks and marvel at his talent even when I’m ever, ever so slightly bored.