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Date Posted: 16:21:33 05/04/07 Fri
Author: Syl
Subject: Human Traces

Here’s a good intriguing review sent in by a UK hoser – Joan N. Thanks, Joan!


TITLE: Human Traces

AUTHOR: Sebastian Faulks.

GENRE: Fiction


This wonderful book covers the period from the 1870's to the 1920's and is the story of two men, Thomas Midwinter and Jacques Rebiere(?- I had to take the book back to the library), who share a common ambition - to find out what it is that makes us human - and drives us mad.

Jacques is driven by a desire to help his older brother Olivier, who suffers from what we now know as schizophrenia; Thomas via his love of literature and myths plus a chance meeting with Jacques at Deauville when they are both young men.

They go their separate ways to complete their studies and become Alienists or mad-doctors, but keep in touch and share an ambition to have a clinic of their own. Thomas's older sister marries Jacques, which further connects the men.

The backdrop to all this is of course the theories and famous people contributing to our understanding of human psychology, and moving from a concept of all mental illness being organic, to other possibilities.

What made it so brilliant to me, apart from my interest in psychology; was the wonderful way in which Sebastian Faulks can put you inside his characters’ minds. The best bits were when Thomas is expounding his general theory about madness being the price that a percentage of the population pay for the unique characteristics of the human brain, symmetrical in structure, asymmetrical in function. His trip to Africa is another highlight.


On reading this review, I'm aware that it does not sound desperately exciting, but please read this book and decide for yourselves. I shall go out and buy it, as it's a 'keeper. It's an intellectually exciting book that, for me at least, articulated vague concepts I held, and I kept wanting to read bits out loud to DH(who always declined the offer!).

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Replies:

[> This sounds like a good one. As part of the percentage of the population that is paying the price, I am interested in all things psychological. Thank goodness there are drugs out there now that were not dreamed of in the 1870's - 1920's! Thank you for the review! -- becca beccabee, 17:56:01 05/05/07 Sat

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[> Sounds interesting - I have read Birdsong by the same author and found his imagery to be wonderful, moving and very alive -- Em, 07:38:10 05/06/07 Sun

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