The Inheritance of Solomon Farthing

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 05 Sep 2019

Member Reviews

This book should without a doubt be on some prestigious lists. It is a superbly told story and Paulson-Ellis is a spectacular storyteller. The way she weaves the individual threads through the timelines and the story, is done in such a subtle way you almost don't realise she is doing it.

The story takes place in the present with the heir hunter Solomon Farthing and in the past with his grandfather in the First World War. Whilst the story bounces back and forth it also takes pit-stops in the years in between. Connections are drawn from the small group of soldiers to the same men in the future and their offspring. The result is a well-plotted narrative about guilt, brotherhood, loyalty and a question of conscience.

There is a parallel between the betting games the soldiers play to pass the time and to fight the fear and anxiety, and the veterans who connect with each other after the war, specifically the items they place as bets. Each one of them brings something, leaves an item and then takes another thing with them. A spool of thread, buttons, walnuts, fruit, cap badges and a pawn ticket. Anything can become one man's treasure in a setting where every single item can become as precious as a cave full of gold.

At times I had tears in my eyes, it's emotional and nostalgic, especially because the author brings realism and authenticity to the table. As a reader you can't help but think about the young boys and men who died under appalling circumstances. Often following the orders that meant they knew they were nothing but bullet fodder for the enemy. Nothing but numbers for their own country.

Would you lead your brothers in arms into death - on a suicide mission? Would you risk death to ensure others cheat death? Of course disregarding an order meant death by firing squad. The crimes of cowardice, pacifism and just pure trauma took far too many victims in the war.

It's historical war fiction, literary fiction and simultaneously a story filled with unanswered questions and mysteries. It is an excellent read. A book that belongs on best books lists.
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This book was beautifully written, but somehow the  gist of it all escaped me.  I just could not really see why there was so much fuss about a pawn ticket and a cap badge. I liked the Edinburgh locations, very atmospheric .  The characters were well drawn, but the narrative seemed vague to me, sometimes it was hard to tell exactly what was going on.  Not for me I am sorry to say.
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Thank you to Pan Macmillan/Mantle for granting my wish for an eARC via NetGalley of Mary Paulson-Ellis’ ‘The Inheritance of Solomon Farthing’ in exchange for an honest review. It was published on 5th September.

Edinburgh, May 2016. Heir Hunter Solomon Farthing is rather down on his luck and in debt to a shady character. After an old soldier dies in a nursing home with no will or known relatives, the funeral home is surprised to discover £50,000 in used notes sewn into the lining of his burial suit. Solomon is offered the opportunity to claim the 20% fee if he can locate the soldier’s closest living relative. However, he is given a strict deadline of four days and only a pawn ticket belonging to the man. This sets him on a journey where he discovers links to between the soldier and his own family history.

This novel is another one that takes place in multiple time periods. While Solomon is running about seeking answers, other chapters explore the experiences of a small group of British soldiers on the cusp of the November 1918 armistice. The unit has commandeered a farmhouse and are waiting for either their orders to go over the top or for it all to be over. They are bored and personalities are clashing.

They are led by Captain Godfrey Farthing, Solomon’s grandfather, who after returning home from the war opens a pawnshop in Edinburgh. 

A few objects are present in both the past and present including the pawn ticket, a battered sixpence, a silver regimental cap badge, and the burial suit. These seemingly insignificant items act as tokens linking the characters over time. Rather sweetly in both 1918 and 2016 two small dogs act as companions and influence events.

It is a gentle mystery that reveals its secrets slowly. Mary Paulson-Ellis does a masterful job in creating memorable characters and bringing her settings vividly to life.

It is quite a complex tale that requires close reading. I found myself caught up in this moving tale. I will likely recommend it to my reading group next year as it is the kind of novel that can reveal more in a second reading and there is a lot of scope for discussion alongside its interesting story.

4.5 stars rounded up to 5.
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Felt this had a great promise but didn’t deliver for me. I have a great interest in family history and archival information but felt that the story based around Solomon Farthing an heir hunter whose relative was involved in the last stand of the First World War. I lost interest halfway through and struggled to finish it.
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I loved this book. The characters in the modern day and throughout the past were excellently written and connected together. I loved the human element of the story.
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This was a real mystery of a story. Solomon Farthing heir hunter, the lead in bridging the past with the present on the hunt for the heir of a dead man with money stitched into his funeral suit. We go back in time to the first world war, following a unit commanded by Godfrey Farthing and reading everything from love, heartache, to insubordination and death. Their  life on the front line, described in detail by a profit and loss account of their items kept in a book by an accountant. The story started slow but it gripped me towards the end. My eyes watered when characters I enjoyed left the pages, and the sadness carried by these men after the war I felt also. I enjoyed reading how their lives were still intertwined even when the war was finished. I loved following Solomon's story through the present mirroring Godfrey's in the past, and how certain characters have lingered with me even when I have put the book down. It's a beautifully written story that makes you realise the sadness of today's political society after all the lives lost to bring Europe together in the world wars. I will definitely be keeping an eye out for this authors work in the future.
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An exceptionally well researched historical mystery that moves between the last days of the First World War and modern day Edinburgh, The Inheritance of Solomon Farthing by it's very gifted author Mary Paulson-Ellis is a multi-layered story that slowly unfurls to reveal the soul destroying tragedy at its heart. 

The protagonist, Solomon Farthing is a down on his heels professional heir hunter, a man who makes his living tracking down lost family members of those believed to have died without an heir, in exchange for a percentage of the inheritance. When a very large sum of cash is found sewn into the lining of an elderly man's burial suit, the hunt is on, and this hunt will take Solomon back almost a hundred years to an abandoned farmhouse in France, in the last weeks of the so called "Great " War where a tight band of men are waiting for their orders and passing the time by gambling away what little treasures they possess. As Solomon chases down various leads he finds a much more personal connection to the case than he could have ever expected.

The author has a great skill in bringing the separate strands of her story to life on the page, be it the bustle of 2016 Edinburgh or the sleepy French countryside, and her characters are particularly well drawn. I found the sections of the story set in the past particularly deeply emotional, seeing the scars of what the men , some no more than boys had already been through, their quiet acceptance of their fate, and their simple hopes and dreams for the unknown future. 

There is a real emotion and an elegance to the way she tells their story that makes it incredibly moving. The initial pacing is definitely a little on the slow side, especially in the first part of the book, but I think that is necessary to set up the rest of the story and introduce all the different characters , but once the story starts to get going it becomes really very gripping and I just could not put it down. Whilst the character of Solomon is not exactly pleasant , there is still something appealing about him, and his hunt for the truth. 
Very strongly recommended.
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What an absolutely beautiful work of art this book is. A complex plot that weaves forwards and backwards from past to present, stunning word craft and a book that made me lose all track of time - I can't recommend The Inheritance of Soloman Farthing enough. The story centres around Soloman Farthing and his mission to solve the mystery of Thomas Methvan whose burial suit has £50 000 sewed into it. Soloman is tasked with finding Thomas's next of kin, and he takes this task on in the hope that he can trace them, and persuade them to sign a contract that will give him a rich commission on the inheritance, thereby solving his debt problem once and for all. But the task becomes so much more than this. We're taken back to 1918 and meet a group of soldiers who are waiting for their last orders. They kill time gambling with precious tokens and the intricacies of their relationships are revealed as we return to them again and again. Mary Paulson-Ellis lets us into the secrets of each soldier and how their histories become intertwined in the most intricate of ways. Soloman learns about his grandfather Godfrey who was haunted by the horrors of war, and the decisions he made. This book is about loyalty, honour, regret and redemption and was truly spell-binding. In-depth characterisation made this story something out of the ordinary, and an absolute triumph. A treasure hunt with stakes that cannot be defined in monetary terms, it was a book that kept me wanting to find out the answer to the riddle of Thomas Methven into the small hours. You won't want to put this one down!
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I loved this novel, the follow up to the successful The Other Mrs Walker.  Beautifully written and an emotional tale, that is set during the war as well as in the present.  4 stars
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Solomon Farthing is at the end – he has no money and “certain people” in Edinburgh are on the lookout for him. Then a police inspector puts a story his way – who was the old soldier with thousands sewn inside his wedding suit? Can Solomon find out the answer before Colin Dunlop? Alongside this we follow a troop of men in WWI in the final days of the war.

I loved the story and the idea of this book but not the execution. The book jumps about all over the place – Solomon, WWI and anywhere on the timelines of the soldiers in WWI and Solomon himself. The book jumps around all over the place & it wasn’t always easy to keep track of what slotted into whose history. I like books which have different timelines but I found this hard to follow. I really had to work hard to enjoy this book & did contemplate giving up on more than one occasion.

The story itself is excellent once you get to the end & fit all the pieces in the jigsaw. The soldiers in WWI – some battle weary, mostly bored, dirty, tired and hungry. Their interaction is brilliant & I really enjoyed seeing how this part of the story worked out. I just wish it had been told in a more straightforward manner. The modern story of Solomon is lighter & has its amusing moments. It is an excellent contrast to the other main thread.

I do wish this book had been easier to follow and not such hard work. I really enjoyed the story just not the way it was written.

I received a free copy of this book via Netgalley.
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Multiple timelines are woven together in this story - Solomon is a modern day heir hunter, a bit of a loveable rogue and the story flicks back and forth between him unraveling a mystery and a group of soldiers at the very end of World War I. 
The story got confusing at times with all of the different characters, some of whom appear in more than one timeline.  That being said I found it interesting to read a different perspective on WWI and life as a soldier. 
A recommended read but it takes some concentration to keep all of the storylines of each of the characters straight.
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I thoroughly enjoyed this dual timeframe detective story. The ‘detective’, Solomon Farthing, is in fact a professional heir hunter, “a pursuer of all that remained when someone died without a will” who digs deep into the lives of the deceased to trace relatives who might be in a position to inherit (and take a healthy commission for himself in the process). Solomon is a very interesting and likeable character. A bit of a loveable rogue, shambolic and scruffy and with no qualms about venturing onto the wrong side of the law in order to get results, often with the blessing of the local police who turn a blind eye to his shady tactics when it suits their own purposes.

I mentioned that this is a dual timeframe novel, but in fact there are multiple timeframes throughout the book. Solomon lives in 21st century Edinburgh, a city still digesting the result of the 2016 Brexit referendum. His investigations into the legacy of a man who died in a care home, apparently with no family left to claim him, take him back to late 1918 when his own grandfather, Captain Godfrey Farthing, was leading a disparate band of soldiers into the final days of the war. As the men await their orders to go over the top, their frustration and sense of hopelessness erupt into violent actions which will haunt the survivors throughout the rest of the century. (That’s where the multiple timeframes come in – throughout the book we meet up with the surviving soldiers as they rebuild their lives and try to bury the secrets of the past.) Although for the most part the wartime scenes aren’t set in the bloody heat of battle, they are just as poignant in their description of the lasting effects the war left on these men’s lives.

Solomon is an intriguing character who reminded me in many ways of Kate Atkinson’s Jackson Brodie. I’d love it if this was just the first in a series of adventures for him and indeed there are hints at the end of the book about a new investigation for Solomon of an equally personal nature. I’ve done a bit of digging of my own about Mary Paulson-Ellis and realised that her previous book, The Other Mrs Walker (which I have on my Kindle but haven’t read yet), features a minor character from this one - Margaret Penny from the local Council’s Office for Lost Souls whose work is similar to Solomon’s in that she tracks down down the families of people who have died alone. I plan to read it soon, and wonder whether Solomon will make a guest appearance?
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Solomon Farthing is an heir hunter, searching for the relatives of an elderly man who died with a small fortune on him. Solomon’s investigations take him into the past, his own past and that of the deceased. This was a little difficult to get into initially, and a bit confusing and slow moving, but as you keep reading it just gets better and better. The descriptions of life in the trenches during WW1 are so well written, the desperate circumstances that the men found themselves in, the things they did to distract themselves from their situation and the small objects which became treasures when you are placed in a sea of freezing mud with no way out.  Heartbreaking! I found the sections of the book describing the First World War really gritty and truly horrifying, and it was these sections I enjoyed the most. .
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An enjoyable read, if a little confusing in places.  I'm a big fan of heir hunters and love unraveling the mysteries of finding people and their stories.  I loved reading about the war and the soldiers' experiences and how decisions and objects held at that time can make a difference down through the years. 3/5*
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This is an interesting book but you definitely have to keep your wits about you - cannot be classified as light reading!  The narrative moves between different locations and dates many times, which can be confusing.  The things that stand out are the grittiness of Edinburgh and the futility of the first World War.
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A total page-turner. Set between modern day Edinburgh and the war-ravaged France of 1918, this is a brilliantly crafted tale of mystery, camaraderie, mortality, history and conflict - both on the battlefield and within the lives of ordinary men. It is engrossing and, at times, intensely moving - a wonderful book, and not just for lovers of historical lit.
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I have always been fascinated by the idea of inheritance hunters - people who search for the rightful beneficiaries of unclaimed legacies. Solomon Farthing is one of these - an "heir hunter". By turns comic and moving this is an impressive and unputdownable book.
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Solomon Farthing - what a wonderful name for the leading character in a novel!  Solomon earns his living as an "heir hunter" who, when successful gets a percentage from the inheritor. Clearly this, as the story reveals, providesis very erratic income terms and so Solomon lives in a somewhat bleak world fighting of the debts he inevitably incurs. This particular inheritance hunt starts with Solomon breaking in to an Edinburgh house, owned by the deceased, in an effort to steal a march on his rivals. This goes comically wrong. However, fortunately Solomon has friends by whom he is owed favours and so he is soon off and "hunting". Mary Poulson-Ellis now deftly interweaves the wartime background of the deceased and his family with the present day and, indeed, the family history of Solomon himself. Will Solomon, in this instance, find himself the inheritor and all his problems solved. Maybe? He certainly discovers out a backstory full of the unexpected which yields him peace of mind and real satisfaction. Fluently written and cleverly constructed this is a genuinely intriguing read which contains humour, sadness and touching humanity in equal measure. Highly recommended.
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An exceptionally well crafted mystery that moves between the last days of the First World War and modern day Edinburgh, The Inheritance of Solomon Farthing by Mary Paulson-Ellis is a densely layered story that slowly unfurls and reveals the tragedy at its heart. 
The titular character, Solomon Farthing is a down on his heels professional Heir Hunter, a man who makes his living tracking down lost family members of those believed to have died without an heir, in exchange for a percentage of the inheritance. When a large sum of cash is found sewn into the lining of an elderly man's burial suit, the hunt is on, and this hunt will take Solomon back almost a hundred years to an abandoned farmhouse in France, in the last weeks of the so called "Great " War where a group of men are waiting for their orders and passing the time by gambling away what little treasures they possess. As Solomon chases down various leads he finds a more personal connection to the case than he ever expected.
The author has a great skill in bringing the settings of her story to life on the page, be it the hustle of Edinburgh or the sleepy French countryside, and her characters are all well crafted. I found the sections of the story set in the past particularly emotional, seeing the scars of what the men , some no more than boys had already been through, their acceptance of their fate, and their simple hopes and dreams for the future. There is a real eloquence in the way she tells their story that makes it incredibly moving. The pacing is definitely a little on the slower side, especially in the first part of the book, but I think that is necessary to set up the rest of the story , and once the story starts to unravel it is gripping. While the character of Solomon is not exactly likeable , there is still something appealing about him, and his hunt for the truth. 
I read and reviewed an ARC courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher, all opinions are my own.
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This is a really good book executing dual timeline perfectly. The idea is also very interesting and well written. It's set in present day, but we go back to the times of First World War as well. 
It looks at the actions of a man against his soldiers and their families, and the consequences of those after 100 years. 
If you like historical stories, dual timelines, literary fiction, I'd recommend this one. 

Thanks a lot to NetGalley and the publisher for this copy in exchange for an honest review.
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