Book reviews: David Cameron's For The Record, Ian McEwan's The Cockroach
For The Record by David Cameron is published in hardback by William Collins, priced £25 (ebook £14.99)
HOW you feel about David Cameron's autobiography may depend more on how you feel about the man, his party and the Brexit referendum than the quality of the writing. The writing is both charming and self-deprecating, for example when talking about the generations of his family who went to Eton. To some it will be an honest account of how an honourable man listened to what the party and the country were saying. While for others, it is a self-serving account of trying to solve an internal Tory party problem, which dragged the country into years of mess, with a badly timed vote and poor argument for Remain. If you are fascinated by politics, understanding the ebb and flow of relationships with friends and colleagues like George Osborne, Michael Gove and Boris Johnson provides insights into ambition, loyalty, principles and which matters most. Johnson doesn't come out of it well. It also provides a window on forming the coalition, and major historical moments like Syria and Libya, the Scottish referendum and gay marriage. Ironically, his feeling that reforming the Tory party to make it more modern and inclusive was what drove him to want to be prime minister, doesn't seem to connect with the austerity he imposed. The book is most moving when he talks about his wife Samantha and the death of their son Ivan. While Cameron admits to some of his mistakes, For The Record sometimes falls into the humblebrag, or restating his opinion that he was right. It will be up to history to decide just how big those mistakes were.
The Cockroach by Ian McEwan is published in paperback by Jonathan Cape Vintage, priced £7.99 (ebook £3.99)
YOU don't need to have read Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis to fathom Ian McEwan's new, highly political and brutally scathing novella, The Cockroach, but the topsy-turvy homage will likely end up on school syllabuses toot sweet. A shrewd, resolute cockroach wakes up in the fleshy, horrifyingly two-legged body of the British prime minister and is intent on delivering the 'will of the people' at any and all costs. Sound familiar? McEwan rattles acerbically through the outrageous strategising, dishonesty and underhand 'negotiating' required to force through 'Reversalism' (rather than Brexit), which will see the flow of Britain's money reversed... Prescient, caustic and droll, it's too uncomfortably accurate/terrifying to be laugh-out-loud funny. It's satire, both amusing and painful.