The Ghost by Robert Harris

Hot on the heels of the not-very-good Peston novel, and entirely by coincidence, I picked up The Ghost by Robert Harris.

As I indicated at the end of my Peston review, Harris’ prose was an immediate breath of fresh air, but here was yet another portrayal of a Blair-like politician, this one at the opposite end of his Prime Ministerial career.

The ghost of the title is a ghostwriter, hired to polish the ex-Prime Minister’s memoirs, which have been drafted (poorly) by an aide who has apparently committed suicide by jumping from a car ferry on its way to Martha’s Vineyard.

This guy is a professional, used to turning the coals of celebrity anecdotes into polished diamonds for the best seller lists. But this is his first foray into politics. He finds himself in the slightly toxic inner circle of a former Prime Minister accused of war crimes, who is apparently having an affair with one of his officials while his wife snipes from the sidelines. The Blair-like character cuts a sad figure: a man who once pulled the levers of power, who now has nothing to do but collect hefty fees for lectures.

The ghostwriter finds him curiously reluctant to talk about some parts of his life, and is warned against touching certain subjects. But then he finds himself obsessively investigating what became of his predecessor.

Typically for Robert Harris, the plot rocks along at a good pace, and this is an easy read. My one criticism would be that the big revelation at the end doesn’t really have much shock value. But then some would argue that endings don’t matter.

There’s a film of this, which I might look out for.

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