The moment I heard how McAra died I should have walked away.
–Robert Harris - The Ghost - c.2007
Adam Lang, ex-Prime Minister, is writing his memoirs. Or to be more honest, he needs a ghostwriter. Someone to do some research, to rewrite Lang’s memories into a story. Enter our unnamed-narrator1. More used to celebrity biographies our narrator is keen to enter the world of politics. It means a huge amount of money, although he only has four weeks to churn out the book.
It should be too hard, his agent assures him that the memoir is pretty much already written, it just needs a bit of polishing after the death of the original ghostwriter.
But such an east job wouldn’t make for a very entertaining novel, would it?
It turns out the Prime Minister has secrets. Secrets that are starting to come to the fore. The War on Terror is ongoing, what role did Land play in landing the British in the middle of it. And what about torture and rendition. Was he involved? Did McAra, the previous writer, uncover a secret he really shouldn’t have? and did it get him killed?
Reading this book it is fairly obvious that Land is a fictionalised Tony Blair. I never liked him, that evil smirk put me off, and I’m getting the impressions that Harris doesn’t like him much either. And he really doesn’t like Cherie Blair. But the questions the book raises are serious ones, and yet I don’t think that the book ever actually took them seriously, apart from how they ratcheted up the tension.
The whole idea of torture as being of use in this so-called “war on terror”, that’s a big issue. Here is just the secret to be hidden. It isn’t an issue at all.
So that aspect is a little disappointing.
Also, I don’t think much of his portrayal of women. Of course no one gets much development here, not even our unnamed narrator. Sure he changes, but only because of the fear of death. He never really looks at his life or how anything like that. He is a bit of a nobody, and yet he has all the women interested in him, of course!
I don’t think I’ve ever read a book by Harris before. This was well written in that I was entertained and kept interested all through it. I wouldn’t say no to another, but I wouldn’t be rushing out to pick up another by him.
I thought he was named at some point, but can’t recall it now, and flicking through I guess he wasn’t ↩