Sunday, 24 May 2009

Review: Sebastian FAULKS - "The Girl at the Lion D'Or"

Publ: 1990
My own copy
ISBN: 0 09 977490 9
Genre: General Fiction
Pages: 250p
Found by Serendipity but also continuing reading the author's works
Rating: ***** *****

What led you to pick up this book?
I saw the title and cover in a charity shop and both instantly appealed. A moment later I realised the author was Sebastian Faulks whose Birdsong is one of my top 150 fiction books.

Describe the plot without giving anything away.
A girl with a mysterious background arrives to start work at a seedy provincial hotel in 1930s France. A Parisian lawyer moves to the countryside. Girl meets boy....

What did you think of the characters?
As well developed and as sympathetic as any to be found in the great classics of literature. They are as real as one's own family but with the difference that Faulks has helped us to understand them in a way that we never understand our own relations.

What did you think about the style?
Classic. One feels that Faulks could set his hand to any plot and make the whole landscape of it live. Emotions are explored in a way that only the very best of authors can do.

What did you like most about the book?
Probably the characterisation but the whole book is first class. It is the sort of book you want all your friends to have read.

Was there anything you didn't like about the book?
Simple answer - No.

Thoughts on the book jacket / cover.
An unattributed picture which I would happily have hanging on my wall.

Would I recommend it?


In a moment Anne could see in his large hands and the strength of his movements all the other ages of his life, as if his body were a palimpsest on which had successively been subscribed the stories of his childhood, adolescence and youth, none of them entirely effacing its forerunner, so that suddenly the contradictions of his bigness and delicacy became understandable and she found herself seeing through his manly self-possession to the ghost of his vulnerable boyhood.

She was wearing her waitress's black dress and her waitress's smile through which, Hartmann thought as he watched, little bubbles of the private girl kept breaking.

When next you pass the memorial in the Place de la Victoire, stop and look at the list of names. Try to imagine that they're not just letters chipped into rock but that each one has a face, a laugh, a look. My life might just as well have ended with them, too. But yours is possible because of them.

It was a day in which everything around her seemed to be in harmony; it was impossible to imagine that he hedgerows and the fields and the woods and streams and isolated cottages were in any other than their appointed place. Only she, a human, with her illusion of free will, couldn't find her true position in it all.

SEBASTIAN FAULKS (b1953) worked as a journalist for 14 years before taking up writing books full time in 1991. He is the author of A Trick of Light, The Girl at the Lion d'Or, A Fool's Alphabet, the celebrated Birdsong and Charlotte Gray. He lives with his wife and two children in London.


  1. I'm going to copy out your review and keep it in my books folder. It sounds like a book I would really enjoy. I've only read On Green Dolphin Street and I have these few notes on it from October 2004:
    'On Green Dolphin Street 2001
    By Sebastian Faulks
    Recorded Books read by Steven Crossley
    Fiction B/B+
    I spent the week after finishing this book trying to figure out how I felt about it, and what "grade" I would give it. Yes, it is an interesting story, but no, the characters aren't as well developed as I would hope. I think I may have liked it because of the 1959-1960 setting, and maybe it wouldn't have held my interest as much if set in the present day. The affair in the book is somehow unrealistic, as is the main character's devotion to her husband. Yet, I didn't hate it, and I kept reading.'

    Funny though, that when I think back on the book I feel a fondness. Do you ever find that? That your past written thoughts and your present feelings about a book don't always mesh? Anyhow, I definitely want to read this one, and I thank you for the review.

  2. Thanks Nan, I just got Green Dolphin Street (secondhand) for a penny! (Postage was £2.00 !) . I'm going to read A Fool's Alphabet first.
    By coincidence, I just added one of yours to my reading list - Rice, Craig - Home Sweet Homicide (Nan)

  3. I've always meant to read Sebastian Faulks and perhaps this summer will get around to Birdsong, a book I've had for years. One more book to pile on the coffeetable!

    I find it interesting that you tell us whether it is your own copy or a review copy. It can influence one. So many (famous) bloggers gush so much about their free copies, overpraise so puzzlingly, and mention the publisher so often to fulfill an obligation that they begin to sound like a marketing firm. (I love most of these blogs, but I had to give up trusting everything they say.)

  4. The distinction in my case is between my own and one borrowed form the library. Nobody sends me free copies (hint, hint!) but even if they did I wouldn't feel obliged to praise their work. I suspect a lot of bloggers who receive free ones do give genuine assessments and we just have to bear in mind how much everyone's tastes differ.

  5. One day I shall revisit this book. I shall have to. I seem to be the only person who, having decided that Birdsong was one of the 'greats', does not feel similarly about this effort from Faulks.

  6. This is just to allow me to tick the follow-up box which I forgot to do.


Hello folks - your comments are always welcome.