June 3, 2011

The Best Laid Plans - Terry Fallis

I should probably warn any readers from the outset that this post may contain some gushing.

I loved this book!

If I had read it prior to the Canada Reads debates, I probably would have been cheering for it, even over Essex County.

I first heard of this book last summer, when Terry Fallis was one of the authors at the Sleeping Giant Writers' Festival and I was fortunate enough to sit next to him at lunch. It was a very hilarious lunch around our table, even though none of us knew each other, and I figured that if he was as entertaining in print as he was in person, this book would be a good read.

I am also a closeted political junkie who tends to come out of the closet during election campaigns, so this book was custom made for me.

The premise, just in case you don't already know, is that Daniel, a young speech writer for the Liberal Party of Canada, decides to leave Ottawa after a particularly nasty break-up with his girlfriend. As a parting promise to the party, he agrees to find a candidate to run in the "safest Conservative riding in the country." He convinces his landlord, Angus McClintock, to run, on the agreement that under no circumstances would he ever win. Of course, since it is a comedic book, a sex scandal dethrones the Conservative candidate, Angus wins, and he is off to try and change Ottawa with Daniel as his somewhat blinkered executive assistant at his side.

This book is not one that I should try to read in public, as I was laughing out loud at times. It was, however, a book that had me putting on my PJ's at 9 every night this week so that I could get an extra hour of reading in at bedtime.

It was also a very timely book, given the recent federal election. There is definitely the analogy with all of the NDP candidates in Quebec who ran with no expectation of winning (some of them having never been to the riding that they were running in, and spending the election campaign out of the country) and then ended up in parliament. There were no dates given, or names for most of the political figures in the book (they are instead referred to as The Prime Minister, The Speaker, The Leader of the Official Opposition), and the election was a fictional election based on fictional issues; but it all could have been real. Listening to the Speech from the Throne this afternoon had extra meaning, given the fact that the Speech from the Throne following an election plays a pivotal role in the book.

I have been recommending this book left, right, and centre all week, even though I only finished it today. Well, mostly left, since that is the way that I tend to vote, as well as the people that I tend to hang out with. I also purchased the sequel, The High Road, on my way home this morning, even though I hadn't quite finished this book yet.

The book isn't perfect. I thought that the romantic thread running through it was a bit unnecessary and tacked on. I also found the first part of the book more engaging and amusing. The second part was less laugh-out-loud funny, but more plot-driven.

I also loved the story-telling style. Most of the book is first-person narrative from Daniel's point of view, so we see events unfolding from his perspective. But at the end of every chapter, there is a journal entry by Angus, in the form of a letter to his deceased wife, which gives the reader his perspective, including his opinion of Daniel. I just hope that this style carries over into the next book.

In summary, the best book I have read in quite some time!


Anonymous said...

Dada -

This shall be my treat when report card work has made some headway. It sits on my dresser, half-taunting, half-encouraging! ;)

dada s

Kate said...

Dada S - good luck with your report cards! I'm in no rush to get my copy back, so take your time with it (if you can).