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Farthing by Jo Walton
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Farthing (original 2006; edition 2006)

by Jo Walton

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
1,164926,969 (3.86)1 / 236
  1. 60
    Fatherland by Robert Harris (aulsmith)
    aulsmith: Two alternate wwii mysteries. Walton's is more literary and thematically more complex.
  2. 30
    The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon (BeckyJP)
  3. 31
    To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis (sturlington)
    sturlington: Both mashups of classic British mysteries and science fiction.
  4. 20
    SS-GB by Len Deighton (aulsmith)
    aulsmith: Detectives try to survive in Fascist England
  5. 20
    The Plot Against America by Philip Roth (wisemetis)
  6. 10
    The Yellow Room Conspiracy by Peter Dickinson (Aquila, wandering_star)
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Showing 1-5 of 92 (next | show all)
Farthing takes place in an alternate history, one where Britain made peace with Nazi Germany in 1941 leaving the USSR to fight alone. This is an England where Churchill never came to power and the social revolution of the postwar period never happened. An intriguing scenario which grabbed me straight away. But instead of a ‘what if?’ political thriller, the opening chapter read like a trad cosy crime country house whodunnit.
And that’s the extreme cleverness of Farthing. On one level it is an accomplished English murder-mystery, where all the drama comes from below stairs gossip. Then there’s a much more insidious side to it all, a creeping sinister realisation that the ditzy debutante and the honest cop who narrate alternate chapters of the story are gradually uncovering a very different postwar Britain to the one in our history books.

In this opening episode in the Small Change trilogy, the fictitious equivalents of the Bloomsbury set have negotiated a peace which allowed Hitler to concentrate his war efforts to the east. Soviet Russia is still fighting the sieges and famous battles, but instead of sympathy the communists evoke suspicion in the British people… as do the steady flow of Jewish refugees, fleeing the camps on the Continent. The UK government is gradually veering towards the right, in scary, subtle ways
In the midst of all this, a prominent member of the government has been murdered and a well-to-do Jew, husband of the flighty narrator, becomes a prime suspect. The policeman – a complex character who grew on me as the plot progressed – can see that all is not as it seems… but will he be able to conduct an honest investigation? And if he does, then what will it reveal?
(I go into more detail about the plot and characters at:
http://murdermayhemandmore.wordpress.com/2014/06/13/farthing-sly-subtle-and-soph... )

It’s smart, subtle writing and the comparisons with early Le Carre are more than fair. Walton uses an intimate investigation and two very personal viewpoints to examine the collapse of the British character. It’s all rather refreshing; occasionally wickedly witty, which only serves to underline the reader’s guilty realisation of enjoying the tale while the country is surreptitiously being fed to the political dogs…

Farthing touches on the very issue which allows radicalism to take ahold of any nation state: when and how do ordinary people abandon the principles of liberty and become the baying mob? It’s chilling, thought-provoking stuff, and at the same time extremely entertaining – not relentlessly grim or oppressive, unlike most novels which explore this subject. However, things are likely to take a gloomy turn in Book Two, I suspect.
9/10
( )
  RowenaHoseason | Jun 22, 2016 |
The Small Change series of books are deceivingly simply written in Jo's frank and personal style that as you progress reveal layers of complexity. They are the perfect example of how best to explore the possibilities that science fiction permits while peppering the plot with the tried and true rules of the detective plot. For more visit my blog Thank the Maker at http://girlsguidetoscifi.blogspot.ca/2014/05/all-of-things-review-of-farthing.ht... ( )
  HollyBest | Jun 9, 2016 |
The story takes place in England after the British negotiate a peace treaty with Hitler whereby he gains control of the European continent and is now engaged in fighting Stalin.

This is a political thriller wrapped up in a murder mystery. This book is a well-written, enjoyable read but may not be satisfying to those who like to see the villain get his comeuppance in the end... ( )
  bhabeck | Mar 6, 2016 |
Farthing is an "alternative history" of post WWII Britain in which England and Germany cease hostilities and agree to a "peace with honor" way of resolving the conflict: Hitler keeps the Continent, and Britain keeps Britain--or do they? This Britain is a scary place where Nazi policies are oh-so-gradually taking hold. People are silenced by threats and blackmail, and they are all too willing to make compromises that allow them to keep their secrets while the civil rights of others are whittled away. Basically, Britain undergoes a coup by the people who are willing to compromise with Nazis.

The book resonated with me because of all the rhetoric surrounding our civil rights and the immigration policies in this country. The book reminds us quite clearly that it wasn't Hitler who threw rocks at the shop windows of Jews or who stood by silently while people went into forced labor camps. It was the neighbors of Jews who threw the bricks and stones and who insisted that the camps were just internment camps, not labor camps where the way out was the gas chamber.

It is the first of a trilogy. ( )
  Denise701 | Feb 2, 2016 |
Well-written and enjoyable, but I felt throughout like I was a few steps ahead of both major characters, which dulled the pleasure. The alternate history, though, felt comfortable and lived-in — Walton doesn't push too far with the conceit, which makes many of the details all the more chilling. I'm looking forward to the next two books in the series regardless. ( )
  scarequotes | Jan 23, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 92 (next | show all)
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Epigraph
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)
Dedication
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.
First words
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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Haiku summary
Makes peace with Hitler, / Andʻs killed,
(but not FOR that.)   Plot. /
Alternate Past.  Flight.

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 076535280X, Mass Market Paperback)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:51 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

"One summer weekend in 1949 - but not our 1949 - the well-connected "Farthing set," a group of upper-crust English families, enjoys 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 earlier." "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 her husband were brought to the retreat in order to pin the murder on David. 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."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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