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

by Jo Walton

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1,025808,270 (3.86)1 / 212
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File under the category of good, but I'm not sure that I have a lot more to add to what other people have said. What I can say is that what lifts this ostensible English country-house mystery above the now-hackneyed "if Hitler won" theme is Walton's skill as a writer and how she weaves believable sexual politics into how her plot plays out. ( )
  Shrike58 | Mar 17, 2015 |
Very good. I particularly liked the ending though throughout it struck as a book with its head screwed on. Heartily recommended I intend to read the entire series. ( )
  jerhogan | Feb 6, 2015 |
I read this when it first came out, but I have the rest of the series on my to-read shelf, so I'd like to re-read this before I get into them. I remember thinking it was very good, but not much else...
  devafagan | Jan 2, 2015 |
At first blush, this story appears like one of those cozy WWII British mysteries. The year is 1949 and a group of wealthy and influential English families are gathered at a country estate for a weekend holiday. And of course, one of the guests is found murdered. But where this story departs from the typical mystery is this is not quite the England we know. What gradually unfolds is to save Britain from a war with Germany, Churchill has signed a treaty with Hitler. Of course the treaty doesn't sanction Fascism or the horrible policies by the Nazi regime, but it allows Britain to coexist with Germany without going to war. But what gradually unfolds in this mystery is that Churchill's compromise has changed British society. Anti-semitism is rampant and people don't even make an effort to hide their disdain for the Jews. I love the way that author Jo Walton reveals this change. At this posh weekend, one of the guests has married a Jew and the interactions between this Jewish man and all the characters shows that all is not right in this world. From upper-crust guests to the servants, it is clear that Jews don't really have a place any longer in society.

The mystery aspect of the story was good, but it's the underlying message of how a single action can change a society that was the gem in this story. ( )
  jmoncton | Dec 16, 2014 |
Six-word review: Murder and politics in 1949 Britain.

Extended review:

Well along in this book, I was still wondering why the alternate history, one in which England has made a war-ending peace with Germany and Hitler still rules in much of Europe. I didn't see how it served the story, why it was necessary to invent this highly charged political climate instead of using one that already existed.

By the end I knew: this isn't really a murder mystery. It's a cautionary tale disguised as a murder mystery. Here the Ghost of Horrors Yet to Come points a bony finger at the gravestones of freedom, justice, decency, and the rule of law. The author might have dealt with her more serious themes directly instead of couching them in this way, as so many others have done, and yet there is something particularly effective about having them come at us sidelong.

And so we're wrong to expect the conventions of a traditional murder mystery to be honored in the end. For that reason, I feel a bit dissatisfied. Things didn't turn out the way I wanted them to. I could argue that I've been misled.

At the same time, I see that the author is serving a larger purpose, and she does it well, at least in this first of a series of three. The two principal characters, Lucy Kahn and Inspector Carmichael, are nicely drawn, appealing and very human in their ideals and virtues, their conflicts and contradictions. I'm inclined to follow Walton forward and see where she was going with this trilogy. ( )
  Meredy | Sep 16, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 80 (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.
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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.

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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:01:46 -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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