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Seventy-Two Virgins [Paperback]

Boris Johnson
3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
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Book Description

3 May 2005

Seventy-Two Virgins is a comic political novel, with similar appeal to Stephen Fry or Ben Elton, written by one of Britain's most popular politicians. It is Boris Johnson’s first novel and was widely acclaimed on publication.

The American President, on a State Visit to Britain is giving a major address to a top-level audience in Westminster Hall. Ferocious security – with some difficulties in communication – is provided by a joint force of the United States Secret Service and Scotland Yard. The best sharpshooters from both countries are stationed on the roof of the Parliament buildings.

Then a stolen ambulance runs into trouble with the Parking Authorities. A hapless Member of Parliament, having mislaid his crucial pass, is barred from Westminster, his bicycle regarded as a potential lethal weapon. And a man going by the name of Jones, although born in Karachi, successfully slips through the barriers, and whole new ball game starts.

Despite the united efforts of the finest security minds, events begin to spin out of control. A remarkable new worldwide reality television show dominates the airwaves. And the most unlikely heroes emerge…

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Product details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins (3 May 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007198051
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007198054
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 19.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 224,816 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Boris Johnson was elected Mayor of London in May 2008. Before this he was the Editor of the Spectator and Member of Parliament for Henley on Thames. He is the author of many books, notably Have I Got Views for You and Dream of Rome.

Product Description


'A hectic comedy thriller…a rip-roaring knockabout farce…refreshingly unpompous, faintly dishevelled and often very funny.' Mail on Sunday

'At the centre of his first novel, a light comedy, is a terrorist plot of frightening ingenuity…the comedy is reminiscent of Tom Sharpe.' Sunday Times

'Johnson scores in his comic handling of those most sensitive issues…he succeeds in being charming and sincere…Boris Johnson has written a witty page-turner.' Observer

'Among the hilarious scenes of events and the wonderful dialogue which keeps the story moving at a cracking pace, Johnson uncovers some home truths…I can give no higher praise to this book than to say that I lapped it up at a single uproarious sitting.' Irish Examiner

'As an author, the Shadow Arts Minister is in a class of his own: ebullient, exhausting but irresistible.' Daily Mail

'fluent, funny material…the writing is vintage, Wodehousian Boris…it has been assembled with skill and terrific energy and will lift morale in the soul of many.' Evening Standard

'This is a comic novel, but Johnson is never far away from making serious points, which he leads us towards with admirable stealth.' Daily Telegraph

Book Description

A Comedy of Errors

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great rainy afternoon read. 23 Oct 2006
By El Loro
Boris Johnson is one of those people who hide a frighteningly acute mind behind a bumbling persona, and I get the impression that he knocked this book out over a long rainy weekend. The plot is flawed, the pace slackens in places and, on reflection, this is a piece of lighter than light fluff. I can understand why BJ would resist a stronger editorial hand, but the book suffers as a result.

But, by Heaven, its funny! Boris Johnson takes huge swipes at the world and his dog, including himself, but cleverly avoids taking sides. ON the other hand, like Dave Courtney, he can dress up discomforting ideas in hilarious language and make you laugh despite yourself.

A good way to spend a rainy afternoon.
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31 of 34 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Heavenly - almost... 7 Sep 2004
A witty and highly enjoyable romp through much that is wrong with how Britain works (or doesn't) today.
The plot revolves around a bicycling MP who's a bit hapless, but basically a decent sort of chap (where have we seen that before?); islamist terrorists; a stolen ambulance and a speech by the President of the United States (POTUS) in Westminster Hall. Just don't cheer too loudly when the parking attendant gets stabbed! It had to lose one star off the maximum, though, because of a rather cheesy plot device involving the terrorist's demands and the general public - I won't give it away, but you'll know it when you see it!
Regular readers of Boris's journalism will know what to expect. Readers who have previously been taken in by his highly cultivated "bumbling, public-school educated, bit of a thicko but basically decent chap" image will be pleasantly surprised!
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lovely, madcap romp! 21 Oct 2004
I've been ill this week and found this book a brilliant distraction. It takes place over the span of just a few hours during a terrorist seige, but those hours are action-packed. Somehow a grim concept has been made into a surprisingly non-bloody and very funny book. It is not a whit serious, so if you liked _Lend Me Your Ears_ more than you did _Friends, Voters, Countrymen_, this may not be for you.
If you've read a Carl Hiaasen novel, this has a similar flavour and pacing. There is a great deal of local colour, tidbits of history, details of the setting and traditions of Parliament, including some areas the public never see. None of that stops the action, but it does make everything feel more real. The main characters all mask various comic areas of incompetence or weakness, so you understand them instantly and mostly forgive them.
Some readers will have a bit of fun spotting minor celebs, mostly political, who have cameos in the story. Johnson has not given any space to people he genuinely dislikes; the PM is hardly in it! His version of George Bush, however, seems quite charitably smarter than the real thing. I also noticed a few bits of literary homage, including a Raymond Chandler line that never fails to bring a smile to my face.
The terrorists are largely cardboard cutouts, but one of them (based largely on Richard Reid, the shoe bomber) has more of a role to play, and by God you end up understanding him as well.
The only thing I didn't like about this book was a few Britishisms inserted in the mouths of American characters. This is easily overlooked, and in fact most readers probably won't notice. It's not enough of a problem to lose it any stars.
This is definitely a fluffy and fun book, and it was just the thing to read with a bout of bronchitis.
Read more ›
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A delight 21 Sep 2005
This is simply excellent. Boris Johnson's charmingly erratic personality shines through, making this book a delight to read.
But it's not laughs all the way - the subject matter is deadly serious, terrorism being something that the Western world has learnt to live with on a daily basis - and the author provides lucid, cogent and convincing arguments for questioning America's response to 9/11 and the country's treatment of terrorist suspects.
The characters are believable and convincing, and you do not need to peer too closely between the lines to discern the real identities of some of the principal players in this comedic masterpiece. The dialogue is deftly handled, descriptions are crisp and to the point, and overall the book works extremely well on several different levels.
More than a little reminiscent of Tom Sharpe at his best, this isn't laugh-out-loud funny, but you'll probably find yourself reading it with a smile on your face for most of the time.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The magnificent farce of modern politics 8 April 2009
Classically constructed novel by the classically educated man, but don't let this put you off. This novel is a farce set in modern times, highlighting the ineptitude of government, authorities, systems and those se rely on for our safety. The characters are pastiches of the people we recognise in power, and surely a bicycling MP is a little too close to home for Mr Johnson.

There are parts of this that you will love - an ambulance being clamped by an over-zealous warden springs to mind. There are parts that plod a little, but the story turns a page and is off again. A great holiday read.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sir Boris for PM 11 July 2006
On the evidence of Seventy Two Virgins, Boris Johnson would make a good novelist or a good Prime Minister - he would probably have to decide which. `Flawed genius' may be a bit rich but hints at the general impression.

The American President is due to address the UK Parliament in Westminster Hall and meanwhile a serious but badly planned bomb cum kidnapping venture is under way. It's set in 2004, after 9/11 but before 7/7. Things go awry on all fronts but Johnson presents the drama with considerable tension, great humour and an astonishing political sensibility. How could this man be a Conservative MP?

The book is slow to start. The entire story takes place in under 4 hours but the build-up to the drama takes half the space without much happening. There is also a great deal of gratuitous erudition: okay, Boris, we've got the point, you're an extremely clever bloke but when you're writing a story like this, you need to move like Archer!

The kidnapping attempt, when it comes, is taken with deadly seriousness and yet has some hilarious sections as the author (relevantly) attacks some random targets: the fast food industry, bureacrats, celebrity chefs, religious fanatics, misogynists and military maniacs in no particular order. The book is worth the money for the rant about the food industry alone.

I was kept guessing as to how the book would end, but when it did it was satisfying. And was it all an improbable farrago?

I leave you with the author's last words:

-The only implausibility in this story is to imagine that (the kidnappers) could for a moment elude the police who guard the Palace of Westminster with such vigilance, tact and kindness.-
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Great holiday read
Extremely amusing plot, well written and excellent grammar, unusual these days. The story line moves quickly and could be believable in places.
Published 3 months ago by Brigid Crick. Brigid crick
1.0 out of 5 stars Dreadful little book!
What a huge disappointment - I love Boris, but this book is SO bad I can't get past the first fifty pages. Read more
Published 9 months ago by sophietrophy
2.0 out of 5 stars Gosh and piffle...
"A lot of gosh and piffle and I think the end might have been in Latin." (2012 Series 1 Episode 3. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Jake Vigors
5.0 out of 5 stars Funny and thrilling
For a thriller terrorist tale, I was laughing every page and a half or so. I just could not put it down, even late into the night. Excellent stuff; hope for more of this to come!
Published 18 months ago by Henry Spirited Jigsaw
1.0 out of 5 stars Boorish Johnson
This was the worst book I have ever read that was written by a politician. He should stick to Have I go news for you where he really is entertaining
Published 23 months ago by glenny
4.0 out of 5 stars BORIS THE NOVELIST
I enjoyed this novel,at first I found it quite hard to get into,but the effort was worth it. I have to admit there were many words I needed to look up,and struggled to pronounce... Read more
Published on 12 Nov 2011 by bibliophile
4.0 out of 5 stars Virginal species:
One way to lose friends is to say something which is not fashionable about somebody like Boris Johnson: it is so much easier not to think for oneself and to regurgitate what the... Read more
Published on 2 Nov 2011 by Constantin ROMAN
4.0 out of 5 stars Overlong but entertaining
This is an amusing novel which describes a plausible situation, and is worth reading for sure. It does go on a bit and perhaps could be shorter, but if you like comic novels it... Read more
Published on 9 Sep 2010 by EddieMan
1.0 out of 5 stars Sorry.....
Sorry, I found this most disappointing. As a long-term fan of Boris Johnson, I opened it with high hopes. Read more
Published on 2 Feb 2010 by G. M. MITSI
1.0 out of 5 stars Codswallop with extra tripe
Dear oh dear. Boris is a talented wordsmith and a man of considerable intelligence but you would not know it if you read this. Read more
Published on 4 Sep 2008 by Mr. LGD Williams
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