Head of State by Andrew Marr
I normally despise and resent novels written by celebrities. They glide to the top of bestselling charts propelled more by the glamour of their authors’ red-carpet-ready shoes than by the merit of their content. The plotting is generally flimsy, characterisation two-dimensional and language lack-lustre. Unfortunately, by the time you discover that the celebrity DIY man can’t write an articulate sentence, or that the retired children’s TV presenter is still at key stage three, it’s too late because you’ve bought the book.
I am envious, of course. While my manuscript languishes on the bottom of prospective agents’ to-flick-through-and-reject’ piles, theirs is eagerly accepted with barely a glance based on the marketing power of the name on the cover sheet.
But I have had to eat my words with Head of State. Andrew Marr’s prose is as luscious as a Thornton’s Truffle - the expensive kind; it is cloying and unctuous in the mouth, and makes you dribble with pleasure. His characters are large and memorably drawn, just the right side of grotesque, although there are a lot of them to assimilate. His plotting is as convoluted as a knitting pattern for an Aran jumper, swooping backwards and forwards in time, leaping from one point of view to another. And throughout, Marr’s dry, slightly cynical voice is clearly audible. If Audible are contemplating this book, they MUST get the author to read it; no-one else could possibly do.
The story is intriguingly peppered with details about the behind-the-scenes of government and politics; bizarre and hard to believe and yet, I am sure, dangerously close to the truth. Marr has taken Jane Austen’s advice - to write about what we know - to heart. His years as a political journalist loitering in lobbies and eavesdropping in restaurants are brought to good account. The plot owes more to Tom Sharpe than to Tom Clancy, but is none to worse for that.
This book is current, enlightening and entertaining.