To Go: 83
11. The Conversations – Michael Ondaatje
12. The Birth House – Ami McKay
13. Essex County – Jeff Lemire
14. Mary-Anne Saves The Day – Ann M. Martin
15. The Werewolf of Fever Swamp – R.L. Stine
16. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – J.K. Rowling
17. The High Road – Terry Fallis
After interviewing the always funny Terry Fallis on Friday, I was inspired to finish his second book, The High Road…a week later. But give me some credit, I’m busy!
The High Road picks up where The Best Laid Plans left off, shortly after the fall of the Conservative minority government. Daniel, utterly naive, assumes that the coming election signals his freedom from politics – given that the MP he’s representing was never interested in running from the get go – but feels the “political noose” tighten around his neck when Angus makes it clear that he wants to run for office again. Pitted against Emerson “Flamethrower” Fox, a retired Conservative who likes to play dirty, Angus and Daniel have their work cut out for them.
It was nice to get back to my favourite group of characters again. Given that I discussed this last time, I don’t need to say how three-dimensional Fallis makes his characters; even the background ones, from Jasper the peach pimp-suit-wearing elder to the PM himself, seem like they’re real people and not works of fiction.
The High Road was light and funny on the surface but had deeply satirical undertones that hit home for me, perhaps more so than that of The Best Laid Plans. While not explicitly stated, it’s clear that Fallis is trying to get across the message that most (though not all) politicians care more about partisan practices than about doing what’s best for our nation; to me, that seems like a good reason why voter turnout is low – citizens are disillusioned by the idea of democracy, which is certainly unfortunate. Seeing Angus take the high road (pun intended) and opt for both clean-campaigning in the face of nasty opposition and total accountability was refreshing to someone who, though new to the world of voting and politics, is sick of smear campaigns and politicians who lack transparency and integrity.
On the ‘light and funny’ note, THR had me laughing out loud more often than not, from the physical comedy (i.e. getting locked outside, bare naked, in the middle of an Ottawa winter) to the witty back and forth between Angus and Daniel. However, it wasn’t completely one-sided, and there were tender moments, too: Angus’s diary entries, addressed to his late wife, Marin, add a sentimental layer to the book, as do his revelations of how they met in feminist rallies in front of Parliament Hill – and the 23 arrests that followed.
It goes without saying that I would recommend The High Road to the politically-ambivalent, the politics lovers, and those who look at the democratic process with jaded eyes; you might just catch yourself hoping that Canada might get its very own Angus McLintock.
Next book: Someday This Pain Will Be Useful To You – Peter Cameron (I hope!)
Next feature: My interview with Terry Fallis.