The moment I heard how McAra died I should have walked away. I can see that now...
The narrator of Robert Harris's gripping new novel is a professional ghostwriter - cynical, mercenary, and with a nice line in deadpan humour. Accustomed to working with fading rock stars and minor celebrities, he jumps at the chance to ghost the memoirs of Britain's former prime minister, especially as it means flying to the American resort of Martha's Vineyard in the middle of winter and finishing the book in the seclusion of a luxurious house.
But it doesn't take him long to realise he has made a terrible mistake. His predecessor on the project died in circumstances that were distinctly suspicious, and the ex-prime minister turns out to be a man with secrets in his past that are returning to haunt him - secrets with the power to kill.
©2007 Robert Harris (P)2014 AudioGo Ltd. Published by Random House Audiobooks
"Makes me think again about the British PM"
This is an excellent book, well read by Michael Jayston, who does a superb job.
The plot is plausible, in spite of the involvement of the usual american three letter agencies, and the story unfolds in a natural, unforced way. The ending is particularly poignant. Thoroughly enjoyable.
"Classic Robert Harris"
Even if you've seen the film, this is still really engrossing. I really liked the narrator, even though his American accents were terrible and he can't pronounce some of the proper names properly! He was so brilliant otherwise it didn't wind up mattering.
"Enjoyable and pacey"
Well told story, with characters who seemed remarkably familiar. Tony, Cherie, Gordon and Alistair all sprang to mind. If you enjoy a thriller with a twist and some fairly blunt resemblances to real life political players from the recent past then you'll enjoy this book.
"Just Short of Excellent"
Just read The Ghost by Robert Harris. This is the first of seven of his novels I have read that falls short of the standard of excellence. Why ? The novel is too close to recent events; I know this was intentional and the fictional Ex-Prime-minister is based on Tony Blair but the reader will not be able to remove this thought from his / her mind and it becomes more a comment on recent events than the work of a master storyteller which is what Robert Harris is. Nevertheless, the theory unfolded at the end is an interesting one and once again, I highly recommend a Robert Harris novel to potential readers.
My rating: 4/5.
"Michael Jayston did his best"
As predictable as the sixth sense and something of a cop-out. Well read but rubbish story.
"An excellent book let down by a poor narrator"
Anyone more suited to the age and attitude of the protagonist; anyone who can pronounce words properly.
Robert Harris is my go-to to make the long day at work go by faster. His books are pacy and intriguing, but not too challenging (I can get on with my work while listening). The Ghost is a great story made less great by a poor choice of narrator.
Firstly, the narrator sounds like a dusty, acerbic Oxbridge professor, which doesn't fit the protagonist at all. His accent is so cut glass that he says 'syootcase' and manages to make 'textbook' a four-syllable word. It's just not how the protagonist would sound at all! Bear in mind that Ewan McGregor was cast in the film version, not Ian McKellen.
His accents are terrible too - the first American we meet sounds like a cigar-waggling 1920s gangster, and a gentleman from New York is, for some reason, given a Southern drawl.
He voices the protagonist inexplicably aggressively, where casual utterances such as 'What?' sound as if they are being spat out along with buckets of spittle and bile. It makes a lot of the dialogue pantomime-y. He also mis-reads the tone of lines - where a line ends 'she enquired', he reads her lines completely flatly.
He also pronounces some words wrong - 'grimaced' becomes 'gri-MACED', 'mannequin' is 'manne-kwin'.
Why this person was chosen to narrate this book is baffling. He doesn't fit at all, and on top of that he's not a good narrator in general (for the reasons listed above). It really does make an excellent printed novel only 'okay' in the audio format.
"Fictional political characters merge with reality"
Claustrophobic elements of the book are reminiscent of a classic John Le Carre. The descriptive passages of the novel are as atmospheric as those in Harris's Cicero Trilogy. The similarities between a certain ex British Prime Minister and Adam are unmistakable - his wife less so. The only downside is that there is no one very likeable in the whole piece.
I listened to the whole book in one day and the time flew past. Michael Jayston is an excellent choice for narrator.
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