The New Republic by Lionel Shriver
My fourth Lionel Shriver and alas my least favorite. Granted, it’s three stars – I read the whole thing and was interested each night to get back to the story. But nobody was likeable, least of all the awful main character, who had something snide to say about EVERYONE; and since it was told from his perspective, the over all vibe was relentlessly ugly and negative.
The protagonist, Edgar, switches careers midlife to become a journalist; and he is sent to Portugal to cover a fictional separatist movement. The area and the ethnic group Shriver is writing about are fake; but even so, I winced at her constant disparagement of the environment and its inhabitants – can something be “racist” when the “race” it’s taking shots at is entirely fictional? I think so. This is beyond having a nasty protagonist with a tendency to put everyone down – Shriver is the narrator and she’s no better than her character.
I’m neglecting to mention a significant part of the plot – the mysterious disappearance of the journalist who preceded Edgar. I guess I didn’t much care.
I don’t want to give away spoilers; what drove the plot and my interest was how Edgar chose to become involved, at first very peripherally but then more and more directly, in the violence that is at first distant from him, then literally surrounds him. This is what kept me coming back night after night.