4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
The Dogs On The Street...,
This review is from: The New Republic (Hardcover)
The New Republic is a satire on the Troubles of Northern Ireland. Don't be fooled by the apparent setting in a fictitious southern peninsula of Portugal or by the hairy pears, this is a novel set fair and square in Belfast suggesting a strange symbiosis between the press corps and Sinn Féin (the Shinners) - trying hard to maintain a legal distance from Óglaigh na hÉireann (the Ra). There are mirrors for detecting car bombs; there are dogs on the streets; there's the incessant bad weather; and there are the murals and grafitti.
And at the centre of this heady brew, we have Edgar Kellogg, a corporate lawyer who has jacked in the law in search of adventure. He calls in a favour from a schooldays hero and finds himself on a newspaper string in Barba, this supposedly Portuguese backwater blighted by a terrorist independence movement. His mission, should he choose to accept it, is to uncover the fate of his predecessor, the disappeared Barrington Saddler. To help him achieve this, he is to step into Barrington's home, inherit his friends and carry out his job.
On arrival, it becomes clear that Barrington had charisma. Edgar doesn't - he is a perpetual lieutenant. Much of the novel revolves around Edgar's soul-searching, trying to work out just what charisma is.
There is a plot - and it's fairly predictable from the blurb - which meanders slowly through its course. As with any satire, the story itself is far fetched but the real humour is derived from the kernel of truth at its core. In this case, we see paramilitarism and revolutionary politics not as the glamorous glad-handing in the White House or Hillsborough Castle, it is cheap offices with broken furniture above tacky souvenir shops or taxi depots. It's about cowards carrying out minor misdemeanours - throwing a few stones each during a night of rioting - whilst trying to keep their heads down during the daytime. It's about posturing and being the king of a pub with no windows.
But most of all, the novel is about the relationship between Edgar and Barrington - played out in Edgar's head as he tries to reconcile his station in life. He wishes, oh how he wishes, he could be Barrington. But to Edgar's frustration and the reader's amusement, Barrington couldn't care less.
There are also some wonderful cameo characters from the world press pack and most of all, Tomas Verdade doing Gerry Adams impressions.
I loved this book - it was just like being back in the Ould Country.