Sebastian Faulks is one of Britain’s most popular literary authors, yet he remains relatively unknown in the US. A former journalist and editor who turned to fiction in his late twenties, he writes richly detailed, well-researched stories that are deeply evocative of the some of the 20th century’s most remarkable periods and places, from WWII-era Europe to America on the brink of the Vietnam War. His perspective is thoroughly modern, but his books have an old-fashioned, epic feeling–often due to their wartime settings and lush romantic plots. As a testament to his popularity, and in a break from his usual work, Faulks was commissioned by the Ian Fleming estate to write a new James Bond book, Devil May Care, for the 2008 centenary of Fleming’s birth. If you enjoy sweeping historical dramas that have decidedly literary bent, check out Sebastian Faulks.
A young British executive travels to France on business in 1910 where he meets and falls madly in love with an unhappily married older woman. The two share a brief but passionate love affair, the consequences of which will linger long after he goes back to Britain. Six years later he returns to France as an officer about to enter the brutal trench warfare in the Somme Valley and encounters his former love again.
- Charlotte Gray
The title character is a young Scottish woman who travels to London during WWII where she falls in love with an RAF pilot. When he disappears on a mission over France, she volunteers for the government’s secretive “G Section” and heads to France to aid the Resistance and locate her lover. This book was adapted into a movie starring Cate Blanchett.
- On Green Dolphin Street
In 1960, the reserved wife of a troubled British diplomat stationed in America falls for a jazz-loving New York journalist. Their affair unfolds amid some of the 20th century’s watershed events–the Nixon-Kennedy campaign, the escalation of the Cold War, and the dawning of one of the most tumultuous decades in America.
- Human Traces
This sweeping story takes place at the dawning of modern psychiatry in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and follows two doctors who meet and discover a shared passion for the workings of the human mind. Both doctors have their own personal motivations and very different approaches to their work, but they share a mutual goal of establishing an innovative treatment facility for the mentally ill. As the pair’s work takes them through Europe, America, and Africa, the reader glimpses each character’s own exposure to illness, tragedy, grief, and madness.