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The Fatal Englishman

Three Short Lives

Sebastian Faulks

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Description

In The Fatal Englishman, his first work of nonfiction, Sebastian Faulks explores the lives of three remarkable men. Each had the seeds of greatness; each was a beacon to his generation and left something of value behind; yet each one died tragically young.
Christopher Wood, only twenty-nine when he killed himself, was a painter who lived most of his short life in the beau monde of 1920s Paris, where his charm, good looks, and the dissolute life that followed them sometimes frustrated his ambition and achievement as an artist.
Richard Hillary was a WWII fighter pilot who wrote a classic account of his
experiences, The Last Enemy, but died in a mysterious training accident while defying doctor’s orders to stay grounded after horrific burn injuries; he was twenty-three.
Jeremy Wolfenden, hailed by his contemporaries as the brightest Englishman of
his generation, rejected the call of academia to become a hack journalist in Cold War Moscow. A spy, alcoholic, and open homosexual at a time when such activity was still illegal, he died at the age of thirty-one, a victim of his own recklessness and of the peculiar pressures of his time.
Through the lives of these doomed young men, Faulks paints an oblique
portrait of English society as it changed in the twentieth century, from the Victorian era to the modern world.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Publishers Weekly Review

Apr 08, 2002 – In his first work of nonfiction, Faulks, a bestselling British novelist, takes up the brief but brilliant lives of three gifted countrymen who died young: painter Christopher Wood; fighter pilot Richard Hillary; and foreign correspondent Jeremy Wolfenden, considered the brightest mind of his generation. Through these tragic tales, Faulks explores the British character as it painfully evolved during the 20th century, spurring both the acceleration and fatal plunge of these vital young men. Wood, a part of the beau monde of 1920s Paris, drew praise from the likes of Picasso and Jean Cocteau. Hillary, who heroically returned to the skies after a fiery dogfight, won renown as a writer in his early 20s. While the sections on Wood and Hillary prove interesting, they are sometimes plodding, and shot through to distraction with background information. The final section on Wolfenden, however, is gripping. Great things were expected of the Eton and Oxford standout even as he became a reckless, alcoholic correspondent in Moscow, drawn into the world of Cold War espionage. While ambition, addiction and arrogance play destructive roles in these lives, homosexuality and the British attitude toward it is a recurring theme that Faulks suggests as a contributing factor. But the complaints here are mostly minor. The writing is solid, at times poetic, and the research thorough. In the end, Faulks manages to jolt the imagination with the tantalizing agony of what-might-have-been. 8 pages of photos not seen by PW. .

Customer Reviews

Short lives par excellence

Together with Birdsong, this exquisite volume of short lives stands apart in Faulks' ouevre. Both are unforgettable, the latter for its vividness and the authority of the narrative -- you don't need any footnotes to fall under this biographer's spell.

The Fatal Englishman
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  • $9.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Biographies & Memoirs
  • Published: Mar 12, 2002
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Seller: Random House, LLC
  • Print Length: 336 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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