Obsession, passion and ambition dominate this novel. Human Traces tracks the progress of psychiatrists Jacques Rebiere and Thomas Midwinter, both of whom are fuelled by a shared fixation on discovering the essence of the human mind. The novel is as epic in structure as it is in content. It questions modern psychology and follows the two characters’ lives from boyhood through to old age, incorporating the First World War and other historical events. Faulks writes with intoxicating fervour and honesty about their lives. The volatile relationships undertaken by the men are vividly conveyed which keeps the narrative fresh throughout lengthy explanations of psychological theories. Faulks keeps the narrative firmly in the third person, enabling it to be transient between the central characters over the various decades.
Overall, this is one of Faulks’ finest novels. It is probably best suited to a reader who already has some interest in the development of psychology, but would be enjoyed by all who have time to devote to the intricacy of its character development.