Faulks on Fiction: The Secret Life of the Novel by Sebastian Faulks

by |February 17, 2011

The BBC have done it again. Gotta love ’em. A series on The Secret Life of The Novel hosted by Sebastian Faulks, with interviews with many of the leading lights in modern publishing. Top marks.

I do hope it is aired on Australian free to air TV soon. And I hope I don’t miss it. I have an annoying  habit of doing that.

Down below are some sample interviews from the BBC series, but what I love most about these TV series are the accompanying books. All TV documentaries these days, no matter how good, leave me wanting more information, more details and the book is where all the best bits are usually stored.

I’ll be adding Faulks on Fiction: The Secret Life of the Novel to my shopping cart ASAP. Click here to follow my example.

The series has caused some controversy – From The Guardian via The SMH

Remarks about children’s books made by Martin Amis on the BBC’s new book programme Faulks on Fiction, broadcast this week, have caused anger and offence among children’s writers.

“People ask me if I ever thought of writing a children’s book,” Amis said, in a sideways excursion from a chat about John Self, the antihero of his 1984 novel Money. “I say, ‘If I had a serious brain injury I might well write a children’s book’, but otherwise the idea of being conscious of who you’re directing the story to is anathema to me, because, in my view, fiction is freedom and any restraints on that are intolerable.”

“I would never write about someone that forced me to write at a lower register than what I can write,” he added. Full article – here


Faulks on Fiction: The Secret Life of the Novel is a social history of Britain through its literature by bestselling novelist Sebastian Faulks – published to coincide with his landmark series on BBC2

The publication of Robinson Crusoe in London in 1719 marked the arrival of a revolutionary art form: the novel. British writers were prominent in shaping the new type of storytelling – one which reflected the experiences of ordinary people, with characters in whom readers could find not only an escape, but a deeper understanding of their own lives. But the novel was more than just a reflection of British life.

As Sebastian Faulks explains in this engaging literary and social history, it also helped invent the British. By focusing not on writers but on the people they gave us, Faulks not only celebrates the recently neglected act of novelistic creation but shows how the most enduring fictional characters over the centuries have helped map the British psyche – through heroes from Tom Jones to Sherlock Holmes, lovers from Mr Darcy to Lady Chatterley, villains from Fagin to Barbara Covett and snobs from Emma Woodhouse to James Bond. Accompanying a major BBC series, Faulks on Fiction is a compelling and personal take on the story of how the dazzling creations of novelists helped shape the world we live in.

Characters included in the book are: Heroes – Robinson Crusoe, Tom Jones, Becky Sharp, Sherlock Holmes, Winston Smith (“1984”), Jim Dixon (“Lucky Jim”), John Self (“Money”); Lovers – Mr. Darcy, Heathcliff, Tess of the D’Urbervilles, Lady Chatterley, Maurice Bendrix (“End of the Affair”), Anna Wulf (“The Golden Notebook”), Nick Guest (“The Line of Beauty”) Snobs – Emma Woodhouse, Pip (“Great Expectations”), Charles Pooter (“Diary of a Nobody”), Jeeves, Jean Brodie, James Bond, Chanu (“Brick Lane”); and, Villains – Richard Lovelace (“Clarissa”), Fagin, Count Fosco (“The Woman in White”), Steerpike (“Gormenghast Trilogy”), Ronald Merrick (“The Raj Quartet”), Jack Merridew (“Lord of the Flies”), and Barbara Covett (“Notes on a Scandal”).

About the Author

Sebastian Faulks is one of Britain’s best selling authors who has made his name with novels like Birdsong, Charlotte Gray, Engleby, Human Traces and, most recently, A Week in December. Before writing novels he was the literary editor of The Independent newspaper. He is also a regular panellist on Radio Four’s literary quiz programme The Write Stuff.

From the BBC Two series – Faulks on Fiction

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About the Contributor

While still in his twenties, John Purcell opened a second-hand bookshop in Mosman, Sydney, in which he sat for ten years reading, ranting and writing. Since then he has written, under a pseudonym, a series of very successful novels, interviewed hundreds of writers about their work, appeared at writers’ festivals, on TV (most bizarrely in comedian Luke McGregor’s documentary Luke Warm Sex) and has been featured in prominent newspapers and magazines. ​Now, as the Director of Books at booktopia.com.au, Australia’s largest online bookseller, he supports Australian writing in all its forms. He lives in Sydney with his wife, two children, three dogs, five cats, unnumbered gold fish and his overlarge book collection. His novel, The Girl on the Page, will be published by HarperCollins Australia in October, 2018.

Follow John: Twitter Website


  • February 19, 2011 at 6:58 pm

    LOVED Ian Rankin discussing Jean Brodie in that burr! And what he said too, of course- how sharp Sharp was. Have been reading my UK tweeps’ comments on the series with interest for some weeks now- would love to see it. Thanks for the teasers!

  • February 22, 2011 at 10:16 pm

    Oh wow. This looks amazing. I hope this airs on Australian telly soon! Moooore!

  • February 22, 2011 at 10:16 pm

    Oh wow. This looks amazing. I hope this airs on Australian telly soon! Moooore!

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