I had a rocky start with this book. The author clearly knows politics, but much less about academia - or at least, current academia. The idea that the protagonist was approached about a tenure track appointment a couple of months before the book began, and that the position was still open, and there weren't a stack of CVs from people applying for that job, that the protagonist could just call his old prof and waltz into a tenure-track job? Well, I don't know what the academic job market used to look like, but it doesn't look like that now!
There were a few
fumbles like this, and they were driving me crazy. And the start of the
book was not that funny, and not that engaging, and I was trying really
hard to like it, because I do like reading about politics, when it's
Gradually, though, gradually, I started to care about
the characters, and to care about what was going on, and what would
happen, and although I never really found this book funny, I did
eventually find it absorbing.
Daniel Addison is a former staffer
for the Liberal Leader (his party is the present Opposition in this
book), who flees Parliament Hill for a tenure-track appointment in
English. The cost of his exit? He needs to find and run a candidate in
the safest Conservative riding in the country. Muriel Parkinson, the
wonderful senior citizen who put herself on the line five times
previously will help with the campaign, but not take on the candidacy.
(Muriel was probably my favourite character.) Daniel finally strikes a
deal with his landlord, engineering professor Angus McLintock. Angus
agrees to run, on the presumption that he doesn't have to do anything
for the campaign, and will definitely lose. In return, Daniel will teach
the English for Engineers course with which he's been afflicted.
was another one - English departments run English for non-English major
courses all the time. They are not normally taught by the engineering
The book makes it sound like it's all about the
campaign, but as far as I'm concerned that half of the book is much
slower than the second half, which deals with what happens after the
impossible happens, and Angus gets elected. (I don't think I'm spoiling
here - that outcome seems implied in the description of the book.) Angus
in parliament is a delight to behold. He doesn't care if he keeps his
seat in the next election, and bends his formidable intellect to the
task of being an honest man on Parliament Hill.
Angus is almost
too good to be true. He's a literate engineer, the widower of a feminist
icon, a fiercely intelligent grammarian, building a hovercraft in his
boathouse. But he is an immensely engaging character, and I enjoyed the
book more when he was the focus. Daniel is, quite frankly, not that
This book reads like the fantasies of a former
staffer, one who wondered "what if" after days upon weeks upon months
dealing with business as it is done in the capitol. The campaign aspects
could have been squeezed down to a fraction of the book, and more spent
on the maneuverings of a minority Parliament afterwards, because for
me, that's where all the fun is.
The first half isn't bad, but the second half is delightful.