I've read two books this past week. Restless, by William Boyd, which I finished on Tuesday, and The Rake, by William F. Buckley jr, which I finished just a few minutes ago.

Both books were recently published, Restless in late 2006 and The Rake in 2007. Both books are well written, which isn't surprising given the literary background of both authors. Boyd has won a number of awards despite having written only 8 novels. Quality, not quantity, y'know? And Buckley is a legend though he's more well known for nonfiction--but he's written a number of spy type novels and they're quite good.

I picked up Restless due to a strongly positive review of it in one of the magazines I read as well as it making the years best list in Newsweek. I agree that it's quite good though I might not include it in a "best of" list. In this book Boyd bounces between the world of WW2, in various countries, and suburban US in the 1970s. There's quite a contrast in time periods but this technique allows Boyd to slowly reveal how the events of the 30s and 40s led to current events.

I don't know how much of the historical background in Restless is accurate--but it points to a very interesting bit of intrigue where the enemies of the time are, at times, less of a danger than ones allies. Germany, Russia, England and the US are all involved in a spiral that includes intrigue, sex, and occasional violence in a novel with a strong literary bend.

Despite my admiration for Restless, I liked The Rake more. While it's fiction, it reads very much like fact--and that's not always a good thing. LOL The principal character of the book is a charismatic young lad when we first see him and events occur that propel him into politics. The novel is largely an explanation of how his trying to avoid hard decisions in the short run led to what could potentially ruin his career and even his life.

Buckley's writing is as clear and interesting as his discourse--and that's high praise. I grew up watching him interview people on Firing Line and while I don't agree with his conservative politics, he's a first rate thinker. It's interesting contrasting his writing with that of his son, Christopher Buckley, whose book Thank you for Smoking, set new standards in political satire. This book, The Rake, isn't as biting but it's very entertaining in its own right.

According to the coverleaf, The Rake is "about a figure bearing an unmistakable resemblance to the defining liberal of our times." Frankly, I don't know who they're referring to. Kennedy is an obvious choice though Clinton comes to mind quickly as well. But if that's so, then the person didn't read the book 'cause the main character isn't a womanizer though one could get that impression from reading a summary of the novel, I guess. This is about a man who made some easy, but not ideal, choices in the past and one serious mistake in the present (actually in 1991, but that's the temporal setting for the book)--and I can't see that as describing any defining liberals of our time. Can you?


NetChick said…
Hi Dave!!

Thanks for posting the reviews! I loved the movie, "Thank you for Smoking", and now your review has inspired me to pick up the book!


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