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Farthing (2006)

by Jo Walton

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Small Change (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
1,4011049,513 (3.89)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)
  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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» See also 273 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 104 (next | show all)
READ THIS BOOK.

No, really, that's all I have to say. ( )
  elenaj | Jul 31, 2020 |
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 |
In Walton’s alternate history , 1949 sees the ruling Conservative Party dominated by the “Farthing Set”, a clique of high Tories credited with negotiating “Peace with Honour” between the Third Reich and the British Empire in response to Hess’ overture on behalf of Hitler in 1941. On the eve of an important vote in Commons, the Farthing Set is gathered at the house after which it is named, the country seat of Viscount Eversley, when Sir James Thirkie, chief negotiator of the peace, is murdered.

From this premise Walton builds a story that uses the solidly-decent meme of an English Country House murder (à la Sayers or Christie) to expose the fascist underbelly of the British Empire, built on anti-Semitism, xenophobia, misogyny, homophobia and an entrenched class system that places the powerful above the law.

Walton tells the story through the eyes of two protagonists, Lucy Eversley Kahn, daughter of Viscount Eversley and Inspector Peter Carmichael of Scotland Yard. These characters are inspired choices that humanize what might have turned into a political rant, give an insight into the choices made by “decent” people confronted with Fascism at home, and make the world that Walton has drawn, much more chilling by being much more credible.

One cannot help but like Lucy. She is the acceptable face of the English aristocracy: a kind, intelligent, self-deprecating, independent woman, who loves her father and survived the disdain verging on hatred of her mother and who has sacrificed her privileged position in society to marry and English Jew. As the story unfolds and the true nature of the evil that is behind Thirkie’s death is understand, Lucy leads us from shock through revulsion and on to pragmatic action and a search for hope.

In another world, our world perhaps, Inspector Carmichael, with his sharp mind and his need to find the truth would be righting wrongs and improving the capabilities of the Metropolitan Police. In this world, it quickly becomes clear that he is more vulnerable than powerful and that “doing the right thing” may not be a choice that is available to him.

I admire Walton’s ability to show what Fascism really does to freedom by showing the damage it does to those who our laws and our democracy ought to make safe.

I find her alternate history very credible. In my view, modern Britain was fundamentally shaped by the decision of the British people in the “Khaki Election” of 1945, the first election in ten years, held on the heels of Victory in Europe Day, to put their trust in Labour Party, rather than the Conservatives, to rebuild Britain. By imagining a Britain in which this choice was never made and where Fascism in Europe was colluded with rather than challenged and defeated, Walton reminds us that the freedoms we enjoy today were hard-won and could be easily lost.

I listened to the audio version of this book. Bianca Amato, who reads the chapters written from Lucy’s point of view, does an excellent job. Her accent is perfect as is her finely nuanced use of emotion. John Keating reads the chapters written Peter Carmichael’s point of view. He does a fine job of the voices of most of the characters but I thought the voice he used for Peter was a little off. His accent was too working class for someone educated at a minor public school. Nevertheless he was easy to listen to and handled both emotion and factual exposition well.

I recommend this book both as a good read, it is an excellent murder mystery, and as a reminder of the sources of power Fascism draws upon.
( )
  MikeFinnFiction | May 16, 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 |
Showing 1-5 of 104 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jo Waltonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Lachmann, NoraTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
s.BENešCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Folio SF (572)
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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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Wikipedia in English (2)

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."

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Book description
Haiku summary
Makes peace with Hitler, / Andʻs killed,
(but not FOR that.)   Plot. /
Alternate Past.  Flight.

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