Sunday, 20 September 2015

Required Reading for the Election Campaign: The Best Laid Plans by Terri Fallis

In my other life I lead book discussion groups in Montreal-area libraries, and, knowing that a federal election was coming up, I put Terry Fallis's The Best Laid Plans on the reading list for October.  At the time I didn't appreciate just how funny or how prescient the book is.  Now I think every political junkie should read it as this long, long campaign grinds on.

The book was published in 2008, well before the Orange Wave, the Great Recession, even before the flirt with coalition government that occurred in December of that year.  It  starts off with a Liberal political wonk who is trying to get out of the game and who agrees as a swan song to find a candidate in a staunchly Conservative riding in eastern Ontario.  The candidate, a U of Ottawa engineering prof,  agrees only because he's promised he won't win.  But he does, for hilarious reasons .  (Hint: a sex scandal involving his opponent, leather and nipple rings are involved, which actually isn't much worse than the peeing-in-a-coffee cup video that scotched the chances of a Conservative candidate this time around.)

Fallis portrays  the vagaries of public opinion as well as the inner workings of political campaign extremely, but entertainingly well.  (Hint: there's quite a bit about lawn signs, telephone canvassing and door to door.)  I know just how hard that is to do.  In another life I spent far too much time organizing political campaigns and tried in one of my first novels (Endangered Species) to give a taste of the rush a political junkie gets from filling out phone canvass forms. My editor that time around made me cut a lot of the details. Fallis either was smarter than I or had a good editor too, because this novel is mostly fun. 

The accidental MP Angus McClintock turns out embodying all that is good in our political system, and makes a tremendous difference.  Would that all candidates out there were as principled.   Should also add that this is a very Canadian book: I can't imagine what Fallis would do with Donald Trump.

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