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Ha'penny by Jo Walton
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Ha'penny (original 2007; edition 2007)

by Jo Walton

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6414122,751 (3.85)101
Member:sturlington
Title:Ha'penny
Authors:Jo Walton
Info:Tor Books (2008), E-book
Collections:Kindle
Rating:****
Tags:alternate WWII, Small Change, 2012

Work details

Ha'penny by Jo Walton (2007)

  1. 10
    Blackout by Connie Willis (sturlington)
    sturlington: Both set in World War II-era London, one an alternate history and the other incorporating time travel.
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» See also 101 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 41 (next | show all)
It's good! But not as good as Farthing, which has a more cohesive viewpoint. This was just as suspenseful, but it ended too abruptly. I needed a denouement. ( )
  xiaomarlo | Apr 17, 2019 |
Second in the trilogy set in the late 1940s in an England that accepted a 'peace' with Hitler in 1941 and has become very much like Germany.

The ha'penny of the title is in a quote from Shakespeare's play Hamlet, around which the plot revolves. Really quite clever - and frightening. ( )
  ParadisePorch | Jan 15, 2019 |
Wow! Now I must read the third in the series. ( )
  ioplibrarian | Aug 26, 2018 |
This is the second book in the Small Change series and, like the first, I sped through it. It was perhaps a tiny bit less dramatic than the first but that is probably to be expected in the middle book of a trilogy. This series is an alternate history set in a Britain that made peace with the Nazis after the Dunkirk evacuation.

The Farthing Group who took power of the British parliament in the last book have made further inroads into the rights and liberties of the British public by rounding up Jews and communists as terrorists. Those who haven't been detained have trouble getting jobs or even going out in public as everyone has to show their identity cards when demanded. Viola Lark is a daughter of a Lord even though she has been disinherited because she decided to make a career in the theatre. She is one of 6 sisters and they are each as different from the other as can be imagined. One sister, Cressida (Siddy), is a Communist and one sister, Celia (Pip), is married to a Nazi. Viola has been asked to perform in Hamlet and take the lead role. The director tells her that the PM and Hitler will be in the audience on opening night. Her mother was to have been played by a well-known actress but before rehearsals start she is blown up by a bomb and it becomes apparent to Inspector Carmichael, who is investigating this death, that she and another man were building the bomb. He can't figure out why because there has been no public announcement of the VIP performance. Meanwhile Viola has been asked by Siddy to take part in the plot but she is reluctant to do so because she doesn't really believe the government and Hitler are as bad as they are made out to be. An IRA bomber who is going to make the bomb tells Viola that she can either do her part or be killed because they can't allow her to go free now that she knows. Viola agrees to help in those circumstances but she thinks there will be some way to prevent the bombing in the end.

As in the first book alternating chapters are told by Inspector Carmichael so we can see how the plot is being unravelled bit by bit. The question is will the bomb be detonated and achieve its purpose before he can stop it? We are kept guessing right up to the end. ( )
  gypsysmom | Jul 30, 2017 |
I'm used to trilogies being fairly uniform in style, so I was expecting Ha'penny to be a second Farthing. Well, no, not so much. Farthing is a classic murder-at-the-ancestral-family-estate mystery, even as it depicts an alternate Britain's slide into fascism. Ha'penny is a political thriller. It starts as a mystery, but you find out soon enough who died and how, and the focus of the story quickly shifts to a plot to kill Britain's prime minister and his political ally, Hitler. Set about two weeks after the end of Farthing, the atmosphere has changed noticeably. Instead of fascism quietly, stealthily lurking in the background of the story, it's an active concern for the characters, who discuss it, argue about it, and try to fit their lives around it.

Like Farthing, the narration in Ha'penny alternates between a woman (stage actress Viola Lark) and Inspector Peter Carmichael. I had a slightly harder time believing in Viola than in Lucy Kahn, mainly because of Viola's compliance/infatuation with Devlin, which seemed more convenient for the plot than realistic. Aside from that, though, I think Walton did a fine job with her character. Both she and Lucy are first-person narrators, but they "sound" different. Unlike Lucy, Viola is a fine example of someone who doesn't care what the government is up to as long as it leaves her alone. And it was good to see Carmichael again, definitely shaken after the events of Farthing, and trying to find his way. We see more of his personal life here (and finally get to meet Jack!).

The conspiracy in Ha'penny is no secret except to Carmichael and the police. In most thrillers, you'd be in suspense, wondering if the conspirators would be able to pull off their plan before the police figured it out. But here, you know they'll fail because this is the middle book of a trilogy, and if they succeeded, we wouldn't need the third book. Despite knowing all that, I still found myself wondering if they'd manage it anyway, which I figured was a sign of good writing.

The core of Ha'penny, though, is the increasingly poisonous atmosphere. Walton does an excellent job of showing how characters willingly contribute to their own oppression, in the hopes of saving themselves or their loved ones. As is usual in real life, there aren't any unfailingly heroic characters. Even while I was rooting for the conspirators (they're trying to kill Hitler; how could you not cheer them on?), it's clear that if the assassination is successful, bystanders will die as well. It's plausible that the conspirators would be seen as terrorists, not only by a government happy to have scapegoats at hand, but by everyday people.

So, yeah, read Ha'penny. Just don't expect it to be Farthing Redux.

P.S. I'd love to see the cross-cast version of Hamlet that Viola was starring in. ( )
  Silvernfire | Apr 25, 2017 |
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» Add other authors (3 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jo Waltonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Lachmann, NoraTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
s.BENešCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat

Please put a penny in the old man's hat.

If you haven't got a penny, a ha'penny will do,

If you haven't got a ha'penny, then God bless you!

-Traditional British children's rhyme
"When I was a lad," replied the foreman, "young ladies was young ladies. And young gentleman was young gentlemen. If you get my meaning."

"What this country wants" said Padgett "is a 'Itler."

- Dorothy L. Sayers, Gaudy Night (1935)
Dedication
This is for Tom Womack, of Winchester, Oxford, and Ploktacon, who has the courage of his convictions.
First words
They don't hang people like me.
Quotations
He had learned from the Farthing Set that you couldn't just change things from the outside, you had to change how people felt. If people stopped being afraid, they'd get rid of the dictators for themselves.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0765358085, Mass Market Paperback)

In 1949, eight years after the "Peace with Honor" was negotiated between Great Britain and Nazi Germany by the Farthing Set, England has completed its slide into fascist dictatorship. Then a bomb explodes in a London suburb.
 
The brilliant but politically compromised Inspector Carmichael of Scotland Yard is assigned the case. What he finds leads him to a conspiracy of peers and communists, of staunch King-and-Country patriots and hardened IRA gunmen, to murder Britain’s Prime Minister and his new ally, Adolf Hitler.
 
Against a background of increasing domestic espionage and the suppression of Jews and homosexuals, an ad-hoc band of idealists and conservatives blackmail the one person they need to complete their plot, an actress who lives for her art and holds the key to the Fuhrer's death. From the ha'penny seats in the theatre to the ha'pennys that cover dead men's eyes, the conspiracy and the investigation swirl around one another, spinning beyond anyone's control.
 
In this brilliant companion to Farthing, Welsh-born World Fantasy Award winner Jo Walton continues her alternate history of an England that could have been, with a novel that is both a critique of the classic detective novels of the thirties and forties, and an allegory of the world we live in today.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:07:35 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

In this sequel to Farthing, Inspector Carmichael has just come off the Farthing case and has been assigned to a bombing which killed leading actress Lauria Gilmore. Meanwhile Viola Lark has been chosen to act Hamlet in a gender-switching production of the play following Gilmore's untimely death and is drawn into a plot to kill Hitler at the opening night of the play, along with Prime Minister Mark Normanby, the lead figure in the increasingly fascistic government.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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