Tuesday, 16 November 2010

The Ghost by Robert Harris

Ghost, TheWhen the former British Prime Minister, Adam Lang, decides to publish his memoirs, he hires a ghost writer as per usual. Only not all too far into the project, the “ghost” dies after falling off a bridge. A replacement is procured and he becomes The Ghost who tells the story of writing Lang’s memoires.

The new Ghost is never named, but nevertheless serves as the narrator throughout the book. He knows that his predecessor is dead and that he cannot be certain that his death was a natural one, so he goes into the situation knowing that he needs to be careful. Just after beginning with the book, all hell breaks loose as Lang is accused of working with the Americans by approving the transfer of British citizens to Gitmo in clear violation of international law. As the Americans don’t recognize this law, they cannot be held to account, but Lang, as an Englishman, can be tried for his offenses. Suddenly the priority switches from writing the memoires to practicing damage control for Lang.

As the novel progresses, the Ghost begins to try and piece Lang’s stories together with known facts about him and keeps coming up short. He begins to dig and isn’t sure he likes what he finds. This puts him in direct conflict with his job and his conscience. Should he just do the job he was hired to do and write the book or should he go after the truth? The first option would make his wealthy, but a traitor to his conscience; the second might just be suicide. He settles for jostling for time so that he can gather information and make up his mind, but the situation continues to heat up and his time starts to run very short indeed.

The Ghost is basically a political thriller which is so blatantly based on Tony Blair that even I couldn’t have missed the connection. Frankly I’m quite surprised that Harris didn’t find himself in a liable suit after this book came out. However, I’m not looking to discuss politics or the rights and wrongs of Harris’ conjectures, so I’m just going to view the book as a generic political thriller and leave it at that.

In general, I thought it was OK. It was all a little vague and one-sided for my taste. There was a distinct lack of balance and counter argument in the book, i.e. there was The Ghost and his conjectures and that was pretty much it. Yes, it did look like he was following the right path, but there were too many questions that went unanswered and a distinct lack of hard evidence to fuel his search. There was too much conjecture and guesswork for my taste. I also never really felt the connection to the narrator since he himself didn’t really seem to know where he belonged. It was like he was floating out at sea being taken to wherever the wind and tides took him. Yes, he’d pick up things along the way, but he never really seemed to be in any control and couldn’t even really decide if he had an opinion one way or the other.

That said, it was entertaining enough that I read the whole book and didn’t feel like it was a waste of my time. However, that is all it was for me, entertainment. 3/5

6 comments:

Scrabblequeen said...

I needed another choice in the check-off boxes..."maybe, but not likely". "-)

Jeane said...

Where have you been?

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