Human Traces – Sebastian Faulks


“Every day, my daddy told me the same thing. ‘Once a task is just begun, never leave it till it’s done. Be the labour great or small, do it well or not at all’.” – Quincy Jones

So it turns out that I am a Finisher (there will be more on this in a future post). I derive satisfaction from getting things done, ticking things off my list, persevering. With books it has always been the same. I can perhaps count on the fingers of one hand the books I have started and not finished. Stephen King’s It (too scary), Martin Amis’s Yellow Dog (too dull), Camilla Macpherson’s Pictures at an Exhibition (too annoying, the characters that is), Erich K√§stner’s Lottie and Lisa (too long, I was about 8 when I tried and my attention span too short – I have since bought an old copy and finished reading it so perhaps this shouldn’t be in the list).

Over a year ago, I started reading the first chapters of Sebastian Faulks’ Human Traces. A fan of his writing since Birdsong took me to the trenches, I had forgotten the attention that his writing demands. A year ago, my mind was as fidgety as the girl that tried to read Lottie and Lisa. Like a butterfly I just couldn’t settle on anything for long. It was not the right time to begin. Months later, newly rehoused a long way out of London and with an hour’s train ride to help reignite my reading habit, I returned to Human Traces and it was a real treat for the brain. The brain being a large focus of the book. Two young men with a shared interest in the workings of the human mind meet by chance on a beach in Deauville.

One fuelled by nothing more than passion and curiosity, the other by a drive to fix his ailing brother, they each hone their knowledge and craft to become the top of their field. You cannot help but think about the frailty of the human brain, your own mind, the fine thread that keeps you tethered to sanity and the circumstances that can cause the thread to snap. And by persevering with this book (and indeed this review which was begun some months ago when I actually finished the book), I consolidate what I know about who I am. A Finisher.