“The Ghost” by Robert Harris – well written but disappointing

the ghost“The Ghost” is well written. The comments on writing and what it means to be a ghost writer resonate as truthful. The metaphors are a little fanciful sometimes but fit well into the text.

Unfortunately, the book disappoints for four reasons:

The central premise of the book – the mystery which I will not share here – is clever and cleverly managed but, in many ways, the secret this British PM who went to war with Iraq is hiding is much less shocking than the behaviour of actual British Prime Minister that went to war with Iraq.

The end of the book feels rushed – Harris is almost phoning in the scene which resolves the issues around the Prime Minister and the plotting – let’s pull in wacky character we mentioned once or twice before but into whom we have no insight – feels thin and brutally retro-fitted. One can imagine an earlier version with a different ending and an editor saying: “It’s good of course, Bob. We all love it. We love you. But… it lacks a little… spark. Couldn’t you give it a more explosive ending?”

The sex scene sucks and not in a good way. I haven’t seen something as bad as this since Peter Benchley was forced to add a bit of sleaze to the his novel “Jaws”. It’s implausible, unnecessary, slightly ikky given Harris’ relationship to the Blair’s, and poorly executed.

But the main reason the book disappoints is that I don’t care at all about the central character. He is too much of a ghost. I was left feeling that he would be no great loss to the world.

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