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Sebastian Faulks

Sebastian Faulks (b. 1953) is an English author, broadcaster, and journalist. From a young age, Faulks enjoyed reading and set his heart on being a successful novelist. During the span of his literary career, he has written several best-selling novels, including Birdsong (1993) and Charlotte Gray (1998), and he is well known for his gripping historical fiction. Here is a brief biography of  Faulks's life, contributions, and books.

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Sebastian Faulks (b. 1953) is an English author, broadcaster, and journalist. From a young age, Faulks enjoyed reading and set his heart on being a successful novelist. During the span of his literary career, he has written several best-selling novels, including Birdsong (1993) and Charlotte Gray (1998), and he is well known for his gripping historical fiction. Here is a brief biography of Faulks's life, contributions, and books.

Sebastian Faulks's: biography

Here is a brief summary of Sebastian Faulks's life and legacy.

Sebastian Faulks StudySmarterFig. 1 - Sebastian Faulks in 2008.

Early life

Sebastian Faulks was born on 20 April 1953 in Berkshire (England), to parents Peter and Pamela. Both Sebastian Faulks and his brother Edward attended Elstree School in Reading (England). Following this, Faulks went on to Wellington College, shortly before then attending Emmanuel College, a constituent of Cambridge University.

Faulks's mother encouraged both of her sons to read from a young age, and so Faulks developed a passion for literature. Not only this, but Faulks's maternal grandfather Philip fought in the First World War and earned the Military Cross, which was perhaps one source of inspiration for the historical war novels that Faulks has written.

Later life

Sebastian Faulks initially worked for the Arts Council, managing the New Fiction Society, a small book club. He later worked for various newspapers, namely the Independent, the Sunday Telegraph, the Guardian, the Evening Standard, and the Mail on Sunday. In 1984, he published his first novel A Trick of the Light.

Faulks married Veronica Youlten in 1989, and the couple had three children together - Arthur, William, and Holly. Sebastian Faulks and his family currently reside in London.

Legacy

During his lifetime, Sebastian Faulks has made substantial contributions to both journalism and historical fiction and is still writing today. He has written a number of bestselling novels, two of these most popular being Birdsong and Charlotte Gray. Sebastian Faulks's novel Birdsong was adapted into a play by Rachel Wagstaff and was then performed in the Comedy Theatre (London) in 2010.

Faulks has also made contributions to television and broadcasting; for example, he was the writer and presenter for 'Churchill's Secret Army' which aired in 1999 on Channel 4. Faulks's works continue to play an important role in literature today, and his texts are still read, studied, and performed.

Sebastian Faulks: novels

Sebastian Faulks has won recognition and acclaim for many of his novels. The following section is an overview of some of his most critically acclaimed novels:

  • In 1995, the British Book Awards gave Sebastian Faulks the award for Author of the Year.
  • In 1996, his novel Birdsong was nominated for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award.
  • In 1999, his novel Charlotte Gray was also nominated for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award.
  • In 2002, Faulks was given a CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) for his contributions and services to literature.

Sebastian Faulks: trilogy

Sebastian Faulks is best known for The French Trilogy (1989-1998), which is a trilogy of novels which are all set in 20th-century France. Let's take a closer look at the first and third volumes of The French Trilogy (1989-1998).

The Girl at the Lion d'Or (1989)

Sebastian Faulks's novel The Girl at the Lion d'Or, first published in 1989, tells the story of protagonist Anne Louvert. The novel is set between the First and Second World Wars, following Anne's new life in Brittany, France, as she tries to escape a troublesome past.

The Girl at the Lion d'Or begins with Ann working as a waitress in the French village of Janvilliers, in the Hotel du Lion d'Or. As the novel progresses, Ann falls in love with married man Charles, a wealthy veteran of the First World War, and the two soon find themselves engaged in an affair. Set against a backdrop of guilt and conflict, the affair is not fated to last, however, and Anne is betrayed by Charles.

From an early age she had developed the art of being alone and generally preferred her own company to anyone else’s. She read books at enormous speed and judged them entirely on her ability to remove her from her material surroundings. In almost all the unhappiest days of her life she had been able to escape from her own inner world by living temporarily in someone else’s, and on the two or three occasions that she had been too upset to concentrate she had been desolate. (ch.2)

Charlotte Gray

Sebastian Faulks's novel Charlotte Gray follows the Scottish protagonist Charlotte Gray who is plagued by her memories of an awful childhood. The novel is set during the Second World War and moves between both England and France.

In an attempt to join the War efforts, Charlotte relocates to London and ends up falling in love with Peter Gregory, a Royal Air Forces pilot. After Peter goes missing, Charlotte searches for him in France, where she experiences first-hand the harrowing reality of a war-torn country under German occupation. Charlotte decides to stay in France where she has formed new friendships and allegiances as she also tries to deal with her past and regain control over her own fate.

Memory is the only thing that binds you to earlier selves; for the rest, you become an entirely different being every decade or so, sloughing off the old persona, renewing and moving on. (ch.6)

Sebastian Faulks: Birdsong

Sebastian Faulks's novel Birdsong is the most popular volume of The French Trilogy. The novel follows the English protagonist Stephen Wraysford. The novel begins in 1910, with Stephen's arrival in Amiens, France, for studies in textile manufacturing. In 1914, war breaks out, and he enlists to fight in the First World War. Through Stephen's eyes, the reader is introduced to life as a soldier, as well as the various horrors of war.

Parallel to this, we learn of Elizabeth Benson from London, who is Stephen's granddaughter. The novel explores both Stephen's and Elizabeth's stories separately until Elizabeth seeks to find out more about her grandfather and her past.

He saw a picture in his mind of a terrible piling up of the dead. It came from his contemplation of the church, but it had its own clarity: the row on row, the deep rotting earth hollowed out to hold them, while the efforts of the living, with all their works and wars and great buildings, were no more than the beat of a wing against the weight of time. (ch. 2)

Sebastian Faulks: books

The following section takes a deeper dive into some of Sebastian Faulk's other books.

Engleby (2007)

Sebastian Faulks's novel Engleby is about working-class university student Mike Engleby. Protagonist Mike narrates the novel, and we begin to learn about his past alongside his present.

Mike appears to be somewhat odd; he is solitary and detached, and there is something about his persona that has the potential to disturb us as readers. Mike becomes obsessed with Jennifer, one of his peers, and she is reported missing shortly following his fixation. The reader is left to question his involvement, even as he grows older and moves forward with his new life, job, and girlfriend in London.

Jennifer remained relaxed and indiscriminately friendly, despite the Paris thing. I wondered what her room was like. What was her life like? Lymington High School. Did her parents still live there? Where exactly was Lymington? (ch.1)

Snow Country (2021)

Sebastian Faulks's most recent novel, Snow Country, is set in Vienna. The novel follows the story of 19-year-old Anton Heideck who hopes to become a well-renowned journalist. Anton works as a tutor part-time and meets his love interest Delphine, who is the daughter of a wealthy family. Shortly following this, however, is the outbreak of the First World War, and the French Delphine soon finds herself living in enemy territory.

Snow Country also follows the story of Lena, the sixth child of an impoverished family with an alcoholic mother. Lena moves from Austria to Vienna and finds herself engaging in prostitution before returning again to Austria. The novel follows the two characters' journeys separately until their lives then converge and collide together.

This could be a life, he dared to think one day, when he was buying a late edition of Die Presse. Writing reports from a foreign country might be a way of engaging with the world - not as the protagonist, but as the recorder of other men's actions. (ch.2)

Sebastian Faulks: Key takeaways

  • Sebastian Faulks was born on the 20th of April 1953 in Berkshire (England)
  • Faulks is best known for his gripping historical fiction novels
  • Among his most famous novels are The Girl at the Lion d'Or, Birdsong, Charlotte Gray, Engleby, and Snow Country
  • Faulks's maternal grandfather Philip fought in the First World War, which was perhaps one source of inspiration for the historical war novels that Faulks has written.
  • Faulks has won various awards for his works, for example, in 2002 he was awarded a CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) for his contributions and services to literature.

References

  1. Fig. 1 - Sebastian Faulks, September 5, 2008 (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sebastian_Faulks.jpg) by Elena Torre is licensed by Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/deed.en).

Frequently Asked Questions about Sebastian Faulks

Sebastian Faulks's novel Birdsong is set before and during the First World War

Sebastian Faulks attended Elstree School in Reading (England). Following this, Faulks went on to Wellington College

Sebastian Faulks felt as though World War I had not been explored enough in historical and literary contexts, especially because World War II followed so soon afterwards 

Birdsong explores the theme of loss, as well as life as a soldier, and the various horrors of war 

Sebastian Faulks was born on the 20th of April 1953. Here is therefore 70 years old in April 2023.

Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

What is a unique feature of the narrative in Birdsong?

Who is the author of the novel "Charlotte Gray"?

What is the main character's mission in "Charlotte Gray"?

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