Books: A week in books
Boyd Tonkin is Senior Writer and a columnist at The Independent. An award-winning journalist, he was formerly Literary Editor at The Independent, and before that Social Policy Editor and then Books Editor at the New Statesman magazine. He has broadcast extensively for BBC arts and current affairs programmes and has judged the Booker Prize, the Whitbread biography award, the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the David Cohen Prize. In 2001, he re-founded the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize for literature in translation, and serves on its judging panel every year.
Saturday 01 February 1997
Yet here comes heavy-footed Michael Dobbs again. Between them, his star Ian Richardson and his adapter Andrew Davies dragged Dobbs's Francis Urquhart trilogy way above its literary station. Some similarly gifted TV team should do the same with Goodfellowe MP (HarperCollins, pounds 16.99) to wipe out the memory of just how dull this novel is. Thomas Goodfellowe, its crumpled crusader, is a backbench "piece of parliamentary flotsam" with a wrecked family and a glorious future behind him. In a less than thrilling intrigue, he ventures out from his Soho eyrie to bust a Buchaneseque industrial cartel which plans (with help from a crudely caricatured Maxwellian magnate) to seize control of British newsapers. The only laugh in this perfunctory plot, decked out in dreary Archer-level prose, comes from the notion that EU legislation might force our upstanding breed of media barons to sell their titles to a bunch of spivs. Remind me, now: who is it that controls HarperCollins?
In contrast, Michael Toner's Seeing the Light (Simon & Schuster, pounds 15.99) manages a few half-decent thrills and some nice touches of sulphurous wit. Toner (a former Express lobby correspondent) creates a Tory minister compelled to do good by three glimpses of heaven and hell.
The sudden conversion to virtue - and the havoc it wreaks - has a fine satirical pedigree (Toner calls his would-be saint George Gulliver). Unexpectedly, though, those parts of the book that stray furthest from political shenanigans impress the most. Toner's efforts to enter the head of "a 20th-century Englishman sunk in medieval dread" work surprisingly well, especially when Gulliver sets off on a sacrificial quest into the Sahara. Meanwhile, the usual Westminster imbroglio - with its sleazy hacks and back-stabbing MPs - raises only faint smiles. For blood and guts, the actual Tory leadership contest of 1990 outstripped the one Toner invents. Still, I did enjoy the idea of the Almighty materialising to Gulliver as a pukka gent in a Garrick Club tie. As He explains, "You need metaphors, George". So do we all - including a few of the plodding literalists who walk the parliamentary fiction beat.
Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challengeTV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Woman falls to her death as she celebrates marriage proposal at the edge of Ibiza cliff
- 2 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 3 Ball pool for adults opens in London
- 4 Baldness could soon be treated using stem cells, scientists hope
- 5 Amal Clooney gives excellent response to fashion question at European Court of Human Rights
The Jump 2015 line-up: Joey Essex, Mike Tindall, Jodie Kidd and co take to the slopes
Game of Thrones, season 5: Grey Worm actor Jacob Anderson is all for more male nudity – as long as he can keep his clothes on
Martin Scorsese 'in shock' after death on set of new film Silence
Game of Thrones season 5 trailer: The first full-length look is here
Sia apologises for 'Elastic Heart' music video that sees Shia LaBeouf wrestle 12-year-old Maddie Ziegler
9 reasons Greece's experiment with the radical left is doomed to failure
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
Have we reached 'peak food'? Shortages loom as global production rates slow
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
Liberal Democrat minister defends comments suggesting immigration causes pub closures