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The New Republic by Lionel Shriver - Book Review

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by Alison Muirhead (subscribe)
Doting grandmother and grey nomad who should join Volunteers Anonymous and is greatly in favour of a ten day week. So much to do, so little time.
Published September 20th 2012
The New Republic by Lionel Shriver
The New Republic by Lionel Shriver

It wasn't until I reached the back page of this novel that I realised that Lionel was a chick. As she says in her acknowledgments, this is a "boy-book written by a girl". Chicklit it ain't, but an extremely topical read given the religion-based unrest which is currently sweeping the world. Australia is now experiencing the phenomenon first hand.

Basically a satire on the way terrorism holds the world at ransom, the novel is based in a fictitious state of Portugal, Barba. Edgar Kellog has been a wannabe all his life. A bored but financially successful lawyer, he throws his career away to follow his dream of being a fulfilled successful journalist. Just as he achieves his dreams, his sense of morality kicks in, and it looks like he could lose that life.

This has all the elements of a boy-book - a gaggle of assorted journalists, a spectre which inspires Edgar to perpetrate a hoax that has world-wide ramifications, a good-looking dame, a jealous husband, a corrupt politician's gorilla of a body guard who meets a sticky end, and a backwater where the population is feeling threatened by the number of North African Muslim immigrants being accepted into the country. Does the latter sound familiar?

Edgar maintains a hoax which was initiated by his spectral friend, his predecessor, the enigmatic and enchanting Barrington Sadler. Barrington has vanished in mysterious circumstances, leaving behind a luxurious pad with all the trappings of his success. Anxious to be a somebody and prove his worth to his US-based editor, Edgar makes phone calls claiming responsibility for terrorist atrocities committed around the world by the illusionary terrorist cell, the SOB. As with his spectral friend, the SOB eventually materialises and all hell breaks loose in Barba.

The novel's style flirts with chicklit in its descriptions of Edgar's fellow journalists. Even comments by the male characters can be catty. The narrative is patchy, a reflection of Edgar's life, but this reader was held by the story line, anxious to reach the denouement.
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