Thursday, 18 August 2011

TPR Recommends... The House of Cards

TPR was once told that up to 90% of plots originate from Shakespeare. At first, this seems unbelievable and somewhat disappointing. Indeed, one is often led to ask "what happened to imagination in the near four centuries since Shakespeare's death?" Well, the themes of Macbeth and Richard III throughout this series of books and TV series give significant cause to celebrate the continuing dominance of Shakespearean plots and helped make this perhaps the most celebrated political fiction of all time. I speak, of course, of the most amoral of political figures, in the most Machiavellian of plots, in The House of Cards.

The original series of books, written by former Chief of Staff at CCHQ Michael Dobbs, were a remarkable bedrock for the format in which we later came to know the character of Francis Urquhart MP. With enough underhand tactics to make every wannabe-Machiavelli jealous, Urquhart begins the book as a Chief Whip that would make current MPs feel they are treated mercifully by their whips. By the end of the book, he is Prime Minister. An essential opening to the trilogy. Purchase here.

Dobbs second book centres on one of the more peculiar relationships at the heart of the British constitutional system - that of the Prime Minister and the Monarch. Published at a time of significant controversy for the monarchy, this book has remained as apt now as it was then. And the antics of Prime Minister Urquhart mean, as before, that this is gripping stuff. Available here.

I dare say this recommends section have become a little predictable, but it would be amiss of me to highlight two thirds of the trilogy and not mention the final book. Purchase here.

And finally... many book-lovers often feel than the dramatisation of books ruins them, typically failing to express the full depth of the plot. TPR, not wanting to be a philistine, doesn't always go along with this theory. And I'm delighted that the House of Cards TV series is a case of mastery in words and on screen. Treat yourself this summer - and remember, it could always be worse at the top - here.

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