The Courage Consort
In contrast to the frisky plumpness of The Crimson Petal and the White, his 2002 panorama of low-life Victorian London, the three novellas in The Courage Consort are determinedly narrow and severe. In the title piece, a vocal ensemble holes up in a chateau for a prolonged rehearsal; this chamber piece is a nicely claustrophobic (but somewhat musty) study of romantic disharmony. Likewise, ”The Hundred Ninety-Nine Steps” — set in the head of an archaeologist with her own painful history to excavate — quietly gets by on heavy atmosphere. Only ”The Fahrenheit Twins,” a triumphantly weird allegory about two ghostly kids living in the Arctic circle, shows the outsize feistiness familiar to readers of Faber’s big hit.