The New Republic

Edgar Kellog has quit his job in corporate law to pursue a career in journalism, which lands him in the lower Portugal region of Barba. Barba has landed on the world map after the aptly named terrorist group SOB (Os Soldados Ousados de Barba) began blowing up planes and malls in the name of Barban independence from Portugal. Edgar is hired as a foreign correspondent to replace the infamous Barrington, who has vanished. Barrington, Edgar quickly learns, is the kind of man that Edgar has despised his whole life. The charismatic man whom everyone adores not matter what, who lives in a bubble of popularity and good luck. Aside from reporting on the political turmoil in Barba, Edgar is also charged with discovering what became of Barrington.

In Lionel Shriver’s new novel (a blessedly less cerebral book than We Need To Talk About Kevin), she has created a vividly tumultuous world of political terrorism and irreverent journalism that ably represents our contemporary world. The novel was originally written almost ten years ago; but, due to current global events, was forced to wait for a more appropriate time to publish a book that looked upon terrorism so irreverently. If you’re tired of hearing (or reading) about terrorism: fear not. This novel casts a disparaging look at terrorism and the journalism—and journalists—who perpetuate it.

In Edgar’s quest to uncover the truth about Barrington’s disappearance, he uncovers far more than the bargained for. Faced with a choice between revealing well-kept secrets and inevitably returning to obscurity or perpetuating those secrets and becoming the popular boy he so yearns to be: Edgar faces a dilemma.

The stakes escalate at a perfect pace, making the novel a truly engaging read. Shriver balances the political drama with Edgar’s personal struggles flawlessly. The reader never feels too drudged down in Portugal’s issues, and Shriver’s tone makes it humorous when it could be oppressive. Edgar makes for a likable protagonist, even when doing despicable things. His past grudges, which he wears like a heavy backpack, are ones that many can sympathize with; and his sharp—if derisive—view of his environment is easy to agree with.

As she did in Kevin, Shriver has written another engaging novel that is nearly impossible to put down. She is a master of plot and tone and pacing—a refreshing read when so many contemporary novels feel overlong or wayward in storytelling. Shriver has the ability to interest the reader in the book’s subject even if it seems incredibly dull. The New Republic is definitely a book worth checking out.

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