It’s over. After months of campaigning – and all the friendly political rhetoric involved therein – the 2012 election is over. Good riddance. And thank goodness for democracy. No matter whether you’re celebrating or brooding today, you have to admit that the American political process is pretty invigorating. Good writers have seized upon political passion in their novels since novels began, so we’ve decided to celebrate a few of those today.
Pundits and politicians, step aside. Here are some of America’s (and Britain’s) best political ruminations in fiction from the last century and a half (synopses from our catalog):
- All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren
Set in the 1930s, it traces the rise and fall of demagogue Willie [Stark] Talos, a fictional Southern politician who resembles the real-life Huey “Kingfish” Long of Louisiana. Talos begins his career as an idealistic man of the people, but he soon becomes corrupted by success, caught between dreams of service and a lust for power.
- Echo House by Ward Just
Three generations of the Behls, a politically ambitious family in Washington. The three men are Adolph, a senator during the 1930s and failed vice-president; his son, Axel, a World War II OSS agent and later a Cold War warrior; and Alec a successful lawyer and lobbyist during the reign of President Kennedy.
- Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John LeCarre
It is now beyond doubt that a mole, implanted decades ago by Moscow Centre, has burrowed his way into the highest echelons of British Intelligence. His treachery has already blown some of its most vital operations and its best networks. It is clear that the double agent is one of its own kind. But which one? George Smiley is assigned to identify him. And once identified, the traitor must be destroyed.
- Shelley’s Heart by Charles McCarry
The first presidential election of the twenty-first century, bitterly contested by two men who are implacable political rivals but lifelong personal friends, is stolen through computer fraud. On the eve of the Inauguration, the losing candidate presents proof of the crime to his opponent, the incumbent President, and demands that he stand aside. The winner refuses and takes the oath of office, thereby setting in motion what may destroy him and his party, and bring down the Constitution.
- Parrot and Olivier in America by Peter Carey
A 21st-century study of America at the time of Revolution. Olivier is the traumatized child of aristocratic survivors of the French Revolution. Parrot is the motherless son of an itinerant English printer. They are born on different sides of history, but their lives will be connected in the United States by an enigmatic one-armed marquis.
- The Prime Minister by Anthony Trollope
Despite his mysterious antecedents, an unscrupulous financial speculator, Ferdinand Lopez, aspires to marry into respectability and wealth and join the ranks of British society. One of the nineteenth century’s most memorable outsiders, Lopez’s story is set against that of the ultimate insider, Plantagenet Palliser, Duke of Omnium, who reluctantly accepts the highest office of state, becoming “the greatest man in the greatest country in the world.”