Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Ghost – Robert Harris

Robert Harris - The Ghost

The premise of Robert Harris' novel The Ghost is pretty good. Adam Lang is the previous prime minister, writing his memoirs in the US, and needing a ghost-writer to help. Except the original ghost, one of Lang’s former political aides, has died on location and needs to be replaced. Enter the story's never-named narrator.

It didn't live up to my memory of Harris' previous fiction. Nothing like as well written as Fatherland, Archangel or Enigma. The book seems rushed and forced in places. Big gushy descriptive chunks of text where none was really necessary.

The story has a few twists and turns as the prime minister's involvement with the illegal seizure of British nationals abroad and their subsequent detention and interrogation/torture at the hands of the US military becomes public, and the ghost-writer delves into his predecessor’s lousy first draft and unexplained death. But the revelations felt formulaic.

From a quick scoot around the web, it seems that following Blair’s resignation, Harris immediately shelved his other projects to write and publish this book. So like the book’s narrator, Harris was writing to a deadline.

While its standard of literature may be in doubt, The Ghost is certainly a page turner, lasting only three bedtimes before reaching the end. And the parallels between Tony and Cherie Blair and Adam and Ruth Lang are uncanny and deliberate.

Recommended reading for a long plane journey. But get hold of a second hand copy. Don't buy it new.


Anonymous said...

What syncronicity. Found and borrowed a copy from the Govanhill Library here in Glasgow this week. Hope to crack on to it this weekend... consuming one trashy thriller per five "real" books seems to be a good balance, a bit like adding some mulch to the compost heap from time to time :)

Anonymous said...


I think the book was supposed to give the impression of being rushed and forced. I felt that as well when I was reading it but when I got to the end, it all made sense. Robert Harris didn't write the book, The Ghost did and as he was panicing when writing it, because of.. well I don't want to ruin it for everyone.. but because of the sinister elements at play in the book he had to write it quickly.