In those innocent days before Donald Trump and Boris Johnson, Republican Congressman Alexander Wilson might have seemed a cartoon caricature, but I found his fictional hypocrisy and narcissism – and unwarranted optimism – immensely consoling in these rage-inducing times. We join him as the doorbell rings at his comfortable home in Virginia, on a hot day in August at the start of his re-election campaign. He’s surprised at the size of the parcel left by the FedEx delivery driver, and even more so when he unwraps it to find a stuffed aardvark and an unsigned card from his ‘lover’ (Congressman Wilson is incapable of love) Greg Tampico, President of the Namibian charity, The Happiness Foundation.
For both men, the aardvark will bring trouble and, for Congressman Wilson, the comeuppance he so deserves.
This book made me cry with relief: I didn’t realise it, but it’s exactly what I’ve been aching for since the Brexit referendum almost four years ago. But it isn’t only about the nastiness of contemporary politics: it’s the first mention I’ve found in fiction of the genocide of the Herero people in the early years of the twentieth century in what is now Namibia. An even more unusual reference is to the New Walk Museum in Leicester, a particular favourite of mine, partly because of its location between the railway station and the university where I used to – occasionally – teach. I found another joyful moment in the matter-of-fact attitude to abortion among some minor characters (whom Wilson hates, obviously); there’s also a mention for Anne Brontë’s novel, Agnes Grey.
But these latter points aren’t the main reason I’m recommending it. Cleverly plotted, beautifully written (unless you object to a second-person narrative) and unashamedly political, it’s a trenchantly honest yet uplifting tale of populist politics, closet (literally in one case) homosexuality and wearing the skins of your enemy to get what you need. Thanks to UK publishers Doubleday for my proof copy. If you feel hurt by your government’s incompetence – or if you’re a New Zealander with compassion for your friends overseas – you need to read this now!
I don’t normally share my review copies (not because I’m greedy – although I am – but to protect the author’s and publisher’s finances) but I pressed this one on Mr A. Although he reads almost as much as I do, we have different tastes. His verdict? He enjoyed it, but not as much as I did; didn’t see it as satire, more the realities of politicking; liked the parallels between the historical and contemporary strands, but got confused at one point where they deviate (which I won’t mention for fear of spoiling); liked the stuff about the position of women, with one character ahead of her time and another way behind; as a nurse, sceptical about the medical strand about eyes (but wasn’t motivated to research it). Nevertheless, he read it in an evening and stayed up late to finish it, so it can’t have been too bad!
It’s a while since I’ve run a book giveaway on Annecdotal, but I’m desperate for those feeling fed up about political mismanagement of the coronavirus pandemic get the chance to read it. Thanks to Doubleday’s Head of Publicity, Tabitha Pelly, I can give away FREE copies to SIX UK readers. Leave a comment below before the end of this month to be in with a chance.
Terms and conditions:
- You need to leave a ‘proper’ comment (relevant to the blog post and 30 words at least) and be able to provide a UK address if successful.
- Copies will be sent out by the publisher as soon as possible AFTER the UK lockdown.
Good luck! And while you’re here, why not peruse my own free and/or cut-price lockdown fiction?
THE GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED AND WINNERS HAVE BEEN CONTACTED BY EMAIL. THANKS TO EVERYONE WHO TOOK PART AND TO TABITHA PELLY FOR MAKING IT POSSIBLE.