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The Death of an Owl Paperback – 9 Feb 2017

4.2 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: W&N; Reprint edition (9 Feb. 2017)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1780222262
  • ISBN-13: 978-1780222264
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 2.5 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 160,556 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

Review

best suited to a fireside on a winter's night, but it's no less satisfying for that (DAILY MAIL)

A delightful Gothic fantasy... Witty and well-crafted - completed with panache (THE GUARDIAN)

Compelling blend of morality and satire (SUNDAY MIRROR)

Skeweringly accurate... The Death of an Owl will ring true with anyone who has ever hate politicians or fallen out of love (EVENING STANDARD)

The Death of an Owl makes the journey from well-crafted and urbane political novel to spooky melodrama with elegance. A pleasure to read (DAILY EXPRESS)

Piers has taken up the story so perfectly that you can't see the join. (THE TIMES)

Book Description

From the bestselling author of Salmon Fishing in the Yemen comes a biting satire about political expediency, spin and unholy alliances. Completed by Piers Torday.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This novel was perhaps inspired by the Chris Huhne /Vicky Pryce pass the parcel game on speeding points, which brought down Chris Huhne’s political career and which put both Chris Huhne and Vicky Pryce in prison. But that story would be difficult to parody, so this novel takes the myth of the flawed political psychopath into new territory.

It makes you feel that you may have missed out on the ancient Greek tragedy (or comedy) where Oedipus, instead of murdering his father and marrying his mother, kills an owl, only to be pursued by a chorus of Furies – masked beaked figures descending ex machina to the wooded stage.

It is a good read – even if the two main characters are so stiff upper-lipped that you warm only gradually to the subdued, repressed and truth-telling hero who is strangely undeluded in the delusional world of political leaders.

There is some dodgy birdwatching - the barn owl that dies would have screeched. Only tawny owls hoot – but they are the ones that seem to haunt the humans. And for good measure, the proof cover design looks more like an eagle owl. But that doesn’t interfere too much with the plot!
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Andrew Langford is an MP, and a member of a select committee concerned with wildlife and the countryside. He also has his eye on becoming Prime Minister.

One night as he drives down a country road, accompanied by his wife, en route to his political advisor's home, he accidentally hits and kills a barn owl - a protected species.

Upon being told of the incident after Langfords's arrival, his political advisor, and fellow Oxford graduate, Charles Fryerne, is aghast. A man of principle, does he keep schtum about it? If word gets out it would surely harm his colleague's chances of becoming PM...

Paul Torday is a well-known literary figure, and of course I've been aware of him for years, and can name several of his books. However, this is the first time I've ever attempted to read any of his works.

Sadly, this will be his final novel due to his death around fifteen months ago.

The book remained incomplete at the time of his passing, but his son, Piers - an accomplished children's author - stepped into the breach and finished it off. However, it's impossible to deduce at which point another writer took over from the original, even though I looked hard for a change in style.

The narrative is very good, but it maybe could, and should, have been developed into an important political novel - but unfortunately, it never reaches those heights.

Nonetheless this is a very readable work that hits one or two targets, and I certainly wouldn't be adverse to reading one or two of Torday Snr.'s earlier books, given the time.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Charles Fryern is the narrator of this beautifully written book, with excellent characterization. It begins in 1981, just before he goes up to Oxford. The description of his undergraduate years there is nicely atmospheric. Among his fellow undergraduates were Maldwyn Christie would become a Tory MP soon after leaving Oxford. Another, Andrew Landford, was competitive, hugely and ruthlessly ambitious and effortlessly brilliant in all sorts of areas; he would become an investment banker. Charles himself first became a political journalist at a small left-wing paper. (The novel is full of references to domestic and foreign politics at the time). His articles there were known for their honesty which got him into some trouble with his editor, but which made him noticed by Maldwyn and by Andrew. Through Andrew, Charles met Jeremy Cutler, who ran a firm of parliamentary lobbyists, and who persuaded Charles to join the firm. As Russia under Yeltsyn embraced the capitalist system, Andrew saw great opportunities for investing in Russia and getting even richer than he already was. He went to Moscow for months on end, and he asked Charles to look after his girl-friend Caroline while he was away. This will lead to complications, but with no hard feelings on either side.

Fast forward to September 2010. Charles had become reasonably prosperous, and had moved into academia as Professor of Strategic Communications at Newcastle University. Andrew, who had bought a farm house on the Cumbria-Northumberland border, had become a front bench Conservative MP for a North of England constituency and was a member of the parliamentary committee which had just toughened up the Wildlife and Countryside Act.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This novel is the last by Paul Torday, who sadly died before it was finished. His son Piers decided to take on the task, and I have to say that this was done beautfully. It is not made clear at what stage in the novel he took over the narrative, but although I tried, I could see no sign of any "join".

The central character in the novel is Charles Fryerne, political advisor to his old Oxford colleague, Andrew Langford. The two men are not close, but work well together. All is fine until the night that Charles and his wife Caroline are invited to stay with Andrew and his wife. Duirng the last part of the journey, the car, driven by Andrew, hits an owl that flies into the windscreen, and as a result is killed (there is more to this part of the story, but I want to avoid spoilers). Suffice it to say that because of Andrew's position as member of the select committee for the Wildlife and Countryside Act, the fact that he has ambitions to be party leader, and barn owls are a protected species, he is placed in a difficult position. This is made worse by Andrew's attempt at a cover up.

Charles too is placed in a very difficult position. He is a man who has always told the truth, and is a stranger to subterfuge, but despite this, he allows himself to be pulled slowly into a conspiracy that threatens both him and his marriage. Andrew is a cold, ruthless man who isn't going to let the death of an owl destroy his chances of political advancement, and has no compunction in sacrificing a friend and a friendship in the process.

I can't say much more as I don't want to spoil this novel for other readers. However, it is a fascinating and compelling novel, and I found it hard to put down as the futures of both these men hang in the balance.
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