British novels that touch on the upper levels of political life usually succumb to the twin lures of cheap caricature and fish-in-a-barrel satire. That makes Benn's take on the Antigone plot, which pivots around the outbreak of war in Iraq and the shared story of two entwined clans, a rare bird indeed.
Anna is sister, wife and friend to men of power in whom ego and ideal blur with fateful consequences. Those closest to her may (like brother Jack) rage against the cruelties of office until their fury turns inwards. Others, like Westminster star Andy Givings, learn "how to move other people around the chessboard of their minds and hearts".
Benn evokes the acrid whiff of power, and its drift into the "web of family", with chilling precision. We tend to see political actors (and their loved ones) as spotlit marionettes. Benn strikingly shows us the flesh, blood – and fear.Reuse content