September 14th, 2006

mmm books

Walton, Jo - Farthing

Much like Walton's Tooth and Claw, this is a fantasy take on a different genre, only this time, it's an English country-house mystery set in an alternate history instead of Trollope with dragons. It's equally brilliant.

It's 1949. Lucy Eversley Kahn is the daughter of a rather eminent British family. Her mother and her father both run in a political circle called the Farthing Set, notable for brokering a peace with Hitler in 1941 that has allowed him to take over most of Europe. Lucy has pretty much exiled herself from her family by marrying David Kahn, a Jew.

They've gone back to Farthing, the Eversley country house, for a party her mother is throwing, only an important politician of the Farthing Set is found murdered, and all clues point to David.

All the odd-numbered chapters are told from Lucy's POV (first person), and the even-numbered ones are told from the POV of the inspector assigned to the case (third person). I very much loved Lucy's voice; she sounds frivolous and feathery, but she's actually quite smart and down-to-earth under her mannerisms, and I really adored her. Carmichael's voice is less distinct, given the third person, but he turns into an interesting character of his own as well.

I also really like how the book proceeds as a "simple" murder mystery, but because of how Walton has structured the world, the characters, and the plot, each additional revelation about the mystery also becomes an additional revelation about the alternate history she's created. Even better, all this becomes a commentary on class and politics and anti-Semitism without being didactic in the least.

There are so many nifty details in the book that I don't want to say too much about them.

Anyhow, this is definitely a very good book, and I am still completely in awe of how Walton manages to write a perfectly cool mystery along with really awesome world-building and characters and manages to delve into anti-Semitism and fascism as well, all without ever preaching.

Highly, highly recommended.

Someone else on my LJ recently read this and adored it as well (jinian?), but I can't find the link for the life of me.

ETA: yay for people sending me links! Also, if you wrote something on the book, I'd love even more links (hint hint)

Links:
- sartorias' review
- oracne's review
- oursin's review
- gwyneira's review
- kate_nepveu's review
- yhlee's review
- tenemet's review