Six Lives

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Pub Date 29 Aug 2024 | Archive Date 29 Aug 2024

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Six lives, connected through blood and history, each rooted in the dirt of their inheritance, look to the future, and what it might hold.


In 1855, Edward Feebes travels to the guano islands of South America, to investigate an irregularity in the accounts of the House of Feebes & Co.


In 1912, post-mortem photographer and reluctant blackmailer Annie Connolly plots her escape from Ireland to America on board the Titanic.


In 1933, idealistic Edgar Waverley faces a choice of the heart when he becomes embroiled in a country house murder.


In 1964, hapless KGB agent Vasily Sokolov makes his career conjuring valuable information from worthless detritus.


In 1987, actor Mariam Khouri looks back at 'Black Dirt’, the movie that lifted her from the streets of Cairo.


In 2012, Isabelle Feebes attempts to break with her poisonous heritage once and for all. Can she forge a new life for herself in the New World? Can you ever truly escape your past?


Six lives, connected through blood and history, each rooted in the dirt of their inheritance, look to the future, and what it might hold.


In 1855, Edward Feebes...

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EDITION Hardcover
ISBN 9781804543511
PRICE £20.00 (GBP)

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Average rating from 7 members

Featured Reviews

Another wonderful book from Lavie Tidhar, sweeping you along in a family epic spanning continents and centuries.

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Lavie Tidhar's latest novel is a sweeping epic, which crosses centuries and continents. Each of its six sections details a different story, giving this the feel of six short stories, for although there is a family name which connects the stories, they can be read independently of each other.

If you are familiar with Tadhar's back catalogue, you will be aware he likes to switch genres, which is something he does with the stories here: there is historical drama, a 1930s murder mystery, a spy thriller and more. This gives this book a real sense of readability and unpredictability which I really liked - I was wondering where Tadhar would take his novel next. I ended up reading this in one sitting.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publishers for the ARC.

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Another excellent novel by Lavie Tidhar. I love the unexpectedness of Tidhar’s books and this one has the added bonus of six stories with six different genres, yet all of them linked.

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Tracing the tributaries of family and kinship over centuries

Six Lives does exactly what it says on the tin, following six lives in one loose-knit family, by blood and as found family, moving from mid-Victorian colonial trade to twenty-first century nepo baby, with a familiar cast of characters cropping up in each of the six time periods, and recurring themes of grief and loss, parents and children. and the vagaries of time.

Each section is well-defined against the rest, with vibrant central characters that fair leap off the page and enough detail to fill a book of its own. There's also lots of story in the interstices within and between each strand, not quite a collection of short stories and more like a roman fleuve but without the length. The geography in each strand is brilliantly realised, the landscape as much a function of the narrative character as it is a backdrop; taking in colonial Peru. early twentieth century Cork, a Home Counties manor, mid-century Cairo, Eighties Rome, and twenty-first century NYLON.

I'm still not sure what to make of it. Well-crafted, the characters fascinating and grotesque in equal measure, but I'm still waiting for the shoe to drop.

Interesting: four stars.

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As the name implies, Six Lives contains 6 interconnected stories, featuring six main characters.
Pros: The variety of genres and themes (although, some themes overlap), the liberty of reading these stories independently, the time settings.
Mariam’s story was the one that I have enjoyed the most content wise, and I found the prose of The Heiress much more enchanting than some others’.

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This book can be read on two levels: merely as a set of great interlinking stories, hugely entertaining, because the characters and their lives are so interesting; but also, in typical Tidhar fashion, as tongue-in-cheek homage to 6 different literary genres, with layer upon layer of meaning, and multitudes of appropriate references to each era and genre.
Tidhar is, amusingly, quite ruthless; the "historical saga" that the book opens with is a pointed dig at most other examples of this genre, which are usually replete with unending detail. In his signature bare prose (sometimes as abrupt as that of an 8-year-old), Tidhar dispenses with all dross, and yet manages to paint an evocative picture of the surroundings of 1855 Lima.
The country house mystery was far, far from cosy, indeed, quite stressful, and the outcome was, again, completely at odds with the works of any of the Golden Age authors.
The other stories and genres were just as cleverly transposed, but I did have a bit of an issue with Annie's story, which, while good in itself, lacked veracity (I know, they are all based on fictive approaches, but still!). Over 100 hundred years later, with abortion now legal in Ireland, it's still practically impossible to get this service in the country; the only people who might have had access to such things at that time would have been either Protestants or the absolute dregs of Dublin slums (as the only city worth the name at the time). The former situation would actually have provided a nice complication in the plot, and a deeper exploration of both Annie's character and the times.
I felt an undercurrent of tension throughout the book, an almost subconscious dread, which was weird, as most of the stories were fulfilling in themselves. I think this was intentional on the part of the author, underscoring the existential theme of the book, the exploration of whether we are bound by our ties to the past, through blood or other connections, or whether we can ever escape it - and, if we do, are we going to enmesh others in our own web of connections?
Finally, I think Tidhar is possibly a victim of his own brilliance - the research, literary allusions and intricate web of connections are all superb, but maybe the one thing, despite the heavy philosophical questions, and the good old narrative arcs that the characters enjoy, that this book lacks, is heart. But maybe you can't have it all. Certainly this is a great read, and one to which I will be returning.

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