The Best Laid Plans
By Terry Fallis
McClelland & Stewart
Canadians generally are not very interested in politics, at least not Canadian politics, so espousing a book on the subject might be a mug’s game. This is a book about politics and it is very funny.
Daniel Addison, a Liberal, is a speech writer for the Leader of the Opposition. He came to Ottawa full of hopes and dreams, and now he’d like with all his heart to be somewhere else . . . anywhere else. He’s “embittered, exhausted and ineffably sad.” His love for the fair Rachael has kept him tethered to Ottawa, but now she has taken her mind and (it has to be said) her body to someone else.
A job teaching English at the University in Cumberland 30 minutes away on the Ottawa River, beckons. Of course the Party he has served calls in a few chips and he’s obliged to do them one more favour, after all they’ve done for him.
The Liberal candidate in the riding of Cumberland-Prescott, Muriel Parkinson, has run for five consecutive elections, with nary a chance of winning. She checked into the old folks home and is not going to run again.
The favour required of Daniel, is that he find another candidate. He has seven weeks in which to do it.
The standing member for Cumberland-Prescott is the Hon. Eric Cameron, Minister of Finance. He’s attractive, an eloquent speaker and newly widowed, therefore, unbeatable.
Daniel settles into Cumberland, and finds lodging in the Boat House apartment belonging to a professor of engineering, Angus McLintock. The professor is a delightful character, opinionated and entertaining, and a stickler for correct English usage. He’s building a Hovercraft from his own design, he plays Chess, and he’s grieving the recent death of his dear wife.
Daniel begins his search for a candidate to stand for the Liberals in the coming election knowing that Muriel lost her deposit all five times she ran; there is no line up for the job.
While Daniel slowly realizes the magnitude of the task ahead of him, Angus McLintock, also finds himself with an unsavoury duty. He is to teach first-year English to engineering students.
If you can imagine a scenario, in which the elected member has no wish to sit in the house or take part in the governing of the country, then you will understand that said candidate would have a certain edge on those who toe the party line.
This story is great fun, although it gives the reader a birds-eye view of parliamentary procedures, which may confirm his/her worst nightmares.
There is some great characters here. The two “Petes” surprise everyone with their skill, Muriel is still a credit to the Liberal Party, and then there is Muriel’s niece who happens to be a pretty and smart young thing.
Daniel tells the story; Mclintock keeps a daily Journal meant for his wife whom he misses dreadfully. This is a funny caper, Winner of Canada Reads 2011.
Peggy Freeman is a freelance writer living in Red Deer.