The New Republic
- HarperCollins Publishers
- Publication Date:
- 04 June 2012
- Modern & Contemporary
Showing 1-3 out of 3 reviews.
Originally written in 1998 and rejected by publishers, Lionel Shriver's The New Republic still feels like a modern, contemporary novel. The novel is a satire of terrorism, which sounds preposterous, but Shriver manages to be witty, evocative, informative and engaging. Corporate lawyer Edgar Kellogg decides he wants to become a journalist. With little experience, he lands an interview at a national newspaper. Against the odds, he gets a job covering Barta, an invented peninsula off of Portugal that has a newly active homegrown terrorist group. The reporter who had been covering it, Barrington Sadler, has gone missing. The job is Edgar's until Barrington returns.Despite having read and enjoyed two of Shriver's earlier novels, We Need to Talk About Kevin and So Much for That--which made my top 10 of 2010, I was somewhat apprehensive about The New Republic. Would it really be good enough to publish now when it wasn't in 1998? Or was the publisher simply banking on Shriver's fame, which is much larger, both commercially and critically, than it was then? I was relieved to enjoy the satire so much I was frequently laughing out loud. Shriver's humor isn't one that will appeal to everyone, and some will likely find it appalling.Perhaps more important, some may find this novel incredibly dull. It's a novel about terrorism and journalism with very little action: "Toby figured your law skills would transfer to journalism: interviewing, library research, writing up cases." As Edgar, and by extension the reader, know nothing about Barba, there is a deluge of information. I found it fascinating to see Edgar research this country and people, but I also teach college students how to conduct research for a living. I frequently contemplated how I could incorporate parts of this novel into my courses.What will really affect if you like or dislike this novel, however, is Edgar himself. He is both likable and unlikable. He has more self-esteem but strong self-awareness: "Edgar's biggest concern about his own character was that he wasn't original. He didn't know how to become original except by imitating other people who were." This lack of self-confidence shapes the events of the novel in many ways. While some readers may not relate, this satire straddles just the right amount of reality to both hilarious and prescient. Favorite passage: "Her far-flung general knowledge, for instance, translated neatly into superficiality: she could discuss anything for five minutes and nothing for half an hour. When she professed strong views about new Freud biographies at parties, she'd read the reviews. She subscribed to all the right magazines but only skimmed the pull-quotes, and in movies concentrated primarily on the credits."The verdict: Lionel Shriver's sardonic wit takes center stage in this inventive and funny novel of terrorism, journalism and international life. The New Republic is at times joyously preposterous, but the underlying wisdom and cynicism shine through and make this delightfully funny novel not only entertaining, but also informative and intriguing.
I wanted to love this newly published offering by the gifted Lionel Shriver but the painfully slow start to this novel made reading it a chore. Edgar Kellogg is a completely unsympathetic and often annoying character; he tries so hard to be arch adn superior that he often made me cringe. The entire situation in Barba, a Portuguese province now the home of a breakaway rebel movement, is absurd- too absurd unfortunately to make for an enjoyable read. Though the book does raise some interesting questions about journalism and sensationalism, the story itself never pulled me in as a reader. The big twist was something I saw coming once Edgar arrived in Barba and I found his inability to follow the breadcrumbs irritating and unbelieveable.The last third of the book was certainly an improvement both in terms of pacing and dialogue, but it was to little too late to save this book. 2.5 stars.
When I read "We Need to Talk About Kevin' several years ago, I couldn't put it down and I couldn't stop talking about it. I passed it along to friends and family, I recommended it to a book club, I wanted everyone to read and experience Shriver's unbelievably moving prose. Her characters and their emotions were truly alive, and I was engaged. When the opportunity for an advance copy of this 'old but new' book, 'The New Republic', I jumped, I couldn't wait to read another riveting Shriver tale. How sad to be so disappointed. The premise behind the book is an interesting and relevant one: the real nature of journalism, and the power of the media to manipulate a story for its own purposes. Add to the mix a fictional, miserable corner of Portugal and the local terrorist group seeking independence for the people of Barba, and you have the potential for a humorous tale. Edgar Kellogg is our main character, a lawyer-turned-journalist and former fat kid whose inability to connect with other humans has left him floundering in his mid-thirties, still yearning for popularity and the approval of his peers. With a stroke of luck, Edgar lands a job as a stringer for a national paper and is sent to Barba to cover the terrorist activity and the disappearance of a revered journalist - once there, Edgar begins to see that all is not as it appears. I just couldn't enjoy this book, I don't need to relate to characters, it's ok with me if they're not likable, but these weren't even interesting. I thought the first half of the book could have been cut in half again, which might have helped move along the fairly light plot, and perhaps made the mild twists a little more shocking. As it was, I felt bogged down in the characters' pretentious speak, and unable to engage with the story. Shriver is a gifted and clever writer, and I look forward to reading something else from her - this just was not the book for me.
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