The Tyrant's Novel, Paperback Book
4 out of 5 (2 ratings)


Imagine a Middle-Eastern country that was once a friend of the West becoming an enemy, its people starving and savagely repressed by a tyrant known as Great Uncle.

As a celebrated writer and war hero, the man who here relates his story has a better life than most, until he is made an offer he can't refuse.

He must write a great novel, telling of the suffering of his people under the enemy's cruel economic sanctions and portraying Great Uncle as their saviour.

This masterpiece must be completed in time for its international debut in three months - or else.

If the writer cannot - or will not - meet the tyrant's deadline, he and anyone he cares for will pay the ultimate price.Stark, terrifying and utterly compelling, THE TYRANT'S NOVEL is both a gripping thriller and a chilling glimpse of a fictional world that seems all too real.


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The protagonist of this story could have come straight out of a Kundera novel for all the existential angst he had going on. Very well written, gripping and insightful. Good stuff.

Review by

In the opening pages of this novel a man visiting a refugee camp in Australia meets a refugee called Alan Sheriff who, over a period of weeks, tells his story, how he came to be where he is.Alan was a writer living in some unnamed country that was run by a cruel despot known as Great Uncle. There is much corruption, oppression, and violence, and the lives of the people are very grim due to sanctions imposed by the west. The parallels with Iraq are obvious, but Africa is also a possibility.. The ruler summons Alan and asks him (ie orders him) to write a novel painting the ruler in a favourable light – and gives him one month to do it. Throughout the month Alan is under constant surveillance and pressure – not meeting the deadline is not an option. The novel is delivered on time but Alan realizes that the ruler will never allow him real freedom and organizes his own escape. He flees on a boat and seeks asylum; the book closes with Alan in the Australian refugee camp talking to his visitor. I found the multiple layers of the story confusing and laborious – it has stories within stories. The names are also confusing. Everyone has Western names so it is not easy to tell who the ‘good guys’ and the ‘bad guys’ are. I understand this was a very conscious decision - Keneally doesn’t want us to fall back on easy cultural stereotypes - but it didn’t quite work for me. I think Keneally has written many better books. I fully support the purpose of the book – to portray the reality of how people become refugees and their grim plight in Australian detention camps – but I think the message dominates at the expense of the novel. The characters begin to look a little like marionettes. Perhaps, like Alan Sheriff, Keneally was up against a deadline and had to get this novel in circulation while the issue of refugee detention was still such a hot and painful issue in Australian culture.

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