Jacques Rebiere and Thomas Midwinter come from different countries and contrasting families. They are united by an ambition to understand how the mind works, and whether madness is the price we pay for being human. Their search is made urgent by the case of Jacques's brother, Olivier, for whose severe illness no name has yet been found.
Jacques Rebiere and Thomas Midwinter, both sixteen when the story starts in 1876, come from different countries and contrasting families. They are united by an ambition to understand how the mind works and whether madness is the price we pay for being human. As psychiatrists, their quest takes them from the squalor of the Victorian lunatic asylum to the crowded lecture halls of the renowned Professor Charcot in Paris; from the heights of the Sierra Madre in California to the plains of unexplored Africa. Their search is made urgent by the case of Jacques's brother Olivier, for whose severe illness no name has yet been found. Thomas' sister, Sonia, becomes the pivotal figure in the volatile relationship between the two men, which threatens to explode with the arrival in their Austrian sanatorium of an enigmatic patient, Fraulein Katharina von A, whose illness epitomises all that divides them. As the concerns of the old century fade and the First World War divides Europe, the novel rises to a climax in which the value of what it means to be alive seems to hang in the balance. Moving and challenging in equal measure, "Human Traces" explores the question of what kind of beings men and women really are.
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"* 'It is of a Russian novelist, Tolstoy, that one finds oneself thinking while reading Human Traces - something about the novel's lovely but unnerving mixture of epic grandeur and shattering personal simplicity; the burning, idealistic engagement with the human condition of its principal characters; and the infinitely touching courage of their attempts to make a difference. This is a bold and remarkable work of imagination' - Jane Shilling, Sunday Telegraph * 'An erudite and lyrical exposition of early psychiatry which is as illuminating as a floodlight in the dark... Human Traces improves on all its predecessors in its scale, its complexity and its scholarship' - Independent on Sunday * 'Faulks emerges as a writer with muscle, with affinities to the great Europeans: Thomas Mann, Balzac, Stendhal... But Faulks has not jettisoned his novelist's instincts and what gives Human Traces its pathos and power is the sense of our abiding frailty before life's intransigent mysteries and the dimness of our rational understanding' - Sally Vickers, The Times * 'Shocking and enlightening... Faulks has a great ability to meld scientific theory with human drama... Its ambition is admirable; its entertainment value... is equally undeniable' - Philip Hoare, Daily Mail"
About Sebastian Faulks
Sebastian Faulks's six previous novels include Birdsong (1993), The Girl at the Lion d'Or (1989) and On Green Dolphin Street (2001). He is also the author of a biographical study, The Fatal Englishman (1996). He lives in London, is married and has two sons and a daughter.
Human Traces by Sebastian Faulks
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