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Farthing by Jo Walton

Farthing (original 2006; edition 2013)

by Jo Walton

Series: Small Change (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
1,4071029,147 (3.88)1 / 273
One summer weekend in 1949--but not our 1949--the well-connected "Farthing set," a group of upper-crust English families, enjoy a country retreat. Lucy is a minor daughter in one of those families; her parents were both leading figures in the group that overthrew Churchill and negotiated peace with Herr Hitler eight years before. Despite her parents' evident disapproval, Lucy is married--happily--to a London Jew. It was therefore quite a surprise to Lucy when she and her husband David found themselves invited to the retreat. It's even more startling when, on the retreat's first night, a major politician of the Farthing set is found gruesomely murdered, with abundant signs that the killing was ritualistic. It quickly becomes clear to Lucy that she and David were brought to the retreat in order to pin the murder on him. Major political machinations are at stake, including an initiative in Parliament, supported by the Farthing set, to limit the right to vote to university graduates. But whoever's behind the murder, and the frame-up, didn't reckon on the principal investigator from Scotland Yard being a man with very private reasons for sympathizing with outcasts and looking beyond the obvious. As the trap slowly shuts on Lucy and David, they begin to see a way out--a way fraught with peril in a darkening world."… (more)
Authors:Jo Walton
Info:Tor Books (2013), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 320 pages
Collections:2014, Your library
Tags:fiction, history, alternate history, 1930s, science/speculative, mystery, crime, britain, wwii, racism, totalitarianism, series: small change, multiple perspectives

Work details

Farthing by Jo Walton (2006)

  1. 61
    Fatherland by Robert Harris (aulsmith)
    aulsmith: Two alternate wwii mysteries. Walton's is more literary and thematically more complex.
  2. 40
    The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon (BeckyJP)
  3. 41
    To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis (sturlington)
    sturlington: Both mashups of classic British mysteries and science fiction.
  4. 20
    The Plot against America by Philip Roth (wisemetis)
  5. 20
    SS-GB by Len Deighton (aulsmith)
    aulsmith: Detectives try to survive in Fascist England
  6. 10
    The Yellow Room Conspiracy by Peter Dickinson (Aquila, wandering_star)
  7. 10
    The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick (rretzler)
  8. 00
    Touchstone by Laurie R. King (amanda4242)

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Showing 1-5 of 102 (next | show all)
I stumbled on the series with Ha'penny which I found very enjoyable, exceptionally well written. Walton is a gifted writer. Decided to go back to there series' opener. I'm disappointed, the ending much darker, that perhaps was Walton's intent. Perhaps that trajectory should give one hope. ( )
  danhammang | Jun 30, 2020 |
It can't happen here
this is a decent country
that's what they all say. ( )
2 vote Eggpants | Jun 25, 2020 |
Jo Walton’s novel opens with a typical mystery – a murder at an English country house – in a most atypical world. It is one in which the British did not defeat the Nazis, but sued for peace on the eve of Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union. Eight years after the “Farthing Peace”, the appeasers are celebrated in Britain as having been right, with everyone believing that the war only proved that the nation could stand aloof from the bloodshed on the Continent. Yet events soon prove just how wrong such thinking can be, as a prominent aristocrat is found dead with a yellow Star of David pinned to his chest. As Scotland Yard inspector Peter Carmichael investigates, he encounters a conspiracy that threatens to bring the climate of fear and hate across the Channel.

Walton’s book is an enjoyable mixture of two differing genres, which combine to provide a fresh and engaging tale. The world she envisions is a plausible one, with historical detail that indicates a good amount of effort in fleshing out a new chain of events. The plot itself is gripping, with a mystery that does not fully resolve itself until the final pages yet holds the reader’s interest throughout. While the ending presages the descent into the grim world of her sequels, [b:Ha'penny|433716|Ha'penny (Small Change, #2)|Jo Walton|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1391143310l/433716._SY75_.jpg|422656] and [b:Half a Crown|3298088|Half a Crown (Small Change, #3)|Jo Walton|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1312053183l/3298088._SX50_.jpg|3334798], it offers a very real meditation on the choices people make and the price that they pay for them. It all comes together for a suspenseful tale that appeals to both fans of alternate history and anyone who enjoys a good mystery novel. ( )
  MacDad | Mar 27, 2020 |
I couldn't see how Walton could do a novel about Athena and Apollo setting up an experiment to implement Plato's ideal city (The Just City), and yet I loved the result. Walton has done it again with an alternate history novel, a genre of low interest for me, and yet another one about Nazi Germany. In this variant, England has made a truce with Hitler, and, eight years later, it appears to be holding its own while Jews die in concentration camps and Hitler battles the Bolsheviks. But the novel is not about that, at least initially, but is a well-done Dorothy Sayers homage, with murder at the manor. Chapters alternate between the first-person diary of a rebellious, smart, but somewhat insulated rich heroine, and the third-person detective tale of Inspector Peter Carmichael -- whose name presumably connects Sayers' Lord Peter Wimsey with his best known portrayer, Ian Carmichael. Another character is named Angela Thirkie, a tip of the hat I assume to Angela Thirkell. I'm sure there are a zillion other such tidbits I missed. Mixing a cosy mystery with Nazis, anti-Semitism, and homophobia, shouldn't have worked, but it does brilliantly.

Highly recommended. ( )
3 vote ChrisRiesbeck | Jan 29, 2020 |
Not even remotely what I was expecting, after reading Among Others.* Good alternate history whodunit. Clearly part of a series, and that's all I'm going to say about the ending.

*note: I didn't read any of the book description at all. I just really enjoyed Among Others, and really enjoyed meeting Ms. Walton at WorldCon and have been wanting to pick up more of her books. I hope they'll put her others up on Audible soon! ( )
  CiaraCat | Jan 9, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 102 (next | show all)
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jo Waltonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Lachmann, NoraTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
s.BENešCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Every farthing of the cost,

All the dreaded cards foretell,

Shall be paid, but from this night,

Not a whisper, not a thought,

Not a kiss nor look be lost.

—W.H. Auden, "Lullaby (Lay Your Sleeping Head, My Love)" (1937)
All the brass instruments and big drums in the world cannot turn "God Save the King" into a good tune, but on the very rare occasions when it is sung in full it does spring to life in the two lines:

Confound their politics,

Frustrate their knavish tricks!
And, in fact, I had always imagined that this second verse is habitually left out because of a vague suspicion on the part of the Tories that these lines refer to themselves.

—George Orwell, "As I Please" (December 31, 1943)
This novel is for everyone who has ever studied any monstrosity of history, with the serene satisfaction of being horrified while knowing exactly what was going to happen, rather like studying a dragon anatomised upon a table, and then turning around and finding the dragon's present-day relations standing close by, alive and ready to bite.
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It started when David came in from the lawn absolutely furious.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Makes peace with Hitler, / Andʻs killed,
(but not FOR that.)   Plot. /
Alternate Past.  Flight.

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