Academia meets realpolitik, to no great effect, in O'Rourke's latest (after The Meekness of Isaac), which transplants ideologically vague New Jersey professor Michael O'Dwyer into the middle of the great British miners' strike of the 1980s. Michael, who specializes in George Orwell and ""stereotype"" theory, would be better off even as a hapless David Lodge character than caught up in this crusade of trade-unionism, pitting Margaret Thatcher against Arthur Scargill of the National Union of Miners. When he's picked up on his flight to a U.K. Orwell conference by Jessie Jackson, a sociology professor at UC-Berkeley, Michael soon finds his Blue Guide vacation becoming a radical's package tour in D.H. Lawrence country. O'Rourke smoothly writes up documentary scenes of striking miners of all varieties. His portrayals of Michael and Jessie as stereotypically naive Americans, however, make them semiconscious as observers, and superfluous as lovers. Michael thinks, ""Both Reagan and Thatcher are eminently laughable, or easy to mock, but they continue... to have the last laugh,"" but O'Rourke invests these and other rehashed political musings with little dramatic interest, until an attenuated terrorist plot suddenly brings the novel to an artificial climax. (May)
Reviewed on: 04/29/1996 Release date: 05/01/1996 Genre: Fiction
During the Covid-19 crisis, Publishers Weekly is providing free digital access to our magazine, archive, and website. To receive the access to the latest issue delivered to your inbox free each week, enter your email below.