A Scandalous Man, By Gavin Esler
Sunday 09 November 2008
From his foreign news journalism alone, I expected far better from Esler than this perfunctory political father-versus-son tale. It's spring 2005, and translator Harry Burnett's estranged father has just made what appears to be a suicide attempt. Why they have become estranged is drawn out through the flashbacks of Robin Burnett's parallel narrative from 1982, when he was in Margaret Thatcher's cabinet until scandal forced him to resign.
Esler has drawn on his own experience when constructing scenes between Burnett senior and diplomats from foreign governments, and as a result those do have an air of authenticity. But his style is flat and clunky throughout. ("It was the day on which Leila Rajar was preparing to telephone Robin Burnett to tell him that she was pregnant. She was also going to tell him that their relationship was over, knowing that it would make him very unhappy.") I also hated the very. Short. Sentences. And the clichés about Margaret Thatcher (feminine but masculine, too, etc, etc).
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