Novelist Michel Faber demonstrated his ability to tell a story convincingly from a female point of view in his novel "The Crimson Petal and the White," relating the rise of an ambitious...

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“The Courage Consort”
by Michel Faber

Harcourt, 256 pp., $22

Novelist Michel Faber demonstrated his ability to tell a story convincingly from a female point of view in his novel “The Crimson Petal and the White,” relating the rise of an ambitious Victorian woman of easy virtue. This time out, he presents three novellas, rising with equal ability to a woman’s thought process in two of them.

The title novella, “The Courage Consort,” concerns the seventh most-renowned serious vocal ensemble in the world: five egotists who attempt to coexist in harmony as they rehearse an unusually difficult piece of contemporary music. Catherine, the soprano and wife of the director, is suicidally depressed. She sees danger in every sparrow in the woods and perceives deadly threat in her husband’s need for love. The composer, best known for having attacked his wife with a stiletto shoe in the baggage claim of the Milan airport, arrives to ensure the group will do justice to his work. And unexpectedly, someone dies.

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“The Hundred and Ninety-Nine Steps” concerns Siän, an amputee taking part in an archaeological dig in Yorkshire. She has vivid nightmares about a man who cradles her head, speaks fondly to her and slits her throat. Romantically attracted to a man she sees running with his dog, Siän tries simultaneously to be closer to him and to hold him at arm’s length. Along the way, she finds the key to a long-buried murder.

“The Fahrenheit Twins,” Faber’s strangest tale, reads like a fable. Identical prepubescent twins, Marko’cain and Tainto’lilith, live on an island near the North Pole with their German anthropologist parents. They are cast out of their symbolic Eden when their mother dies, and they discover undreamed-of things about their parents.

Faber’s dark tales find drama in death and in the unraveling of causes and effects.