Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The ReadItDaddy "Daddy Review" of Taft 2012 by Jason Heller (Quirk Books)

Taft 2012 Cover 
Daddy here, off the leash and straying away from children's picture books again to take a look at a book that - by rights - is so far outside my comfort zone that it normally wouldn't even register a blip of interest. Thankfully, thanks to Mat and Quirk Books, I've been sent a copy and it's really rather good.

My grasp of American politics is as slim as my grasp on the female psyche, but with a swift bit of Wikipediaing I found out that William Howard Taft was the 27th President of the United States of America.

I emphasize the 'was' there, because in Jason Heller's 'Man out of time' novel, William Howard Taft, all 300 lbs plus of him (including his superb moustache) has somehow crawled his way back to life after spending a century underground.

The novel opens with Taft literally clawing his way out of his grave but unlike most undead, he's not interested in eating brains (though huge platefuls of practically anything else is wholly acceptable to this impressive trencherman). Heller's wry humorous examination of the impact of a man 100 years behind the times both politically and domestically is far from the heavyweight political novel I was expecting.

We swiftly learn that Taft's great grand-daughter is currently in congress and most of the delights of this novel spring from how she copes when Great Grandad starts to make as big an impact on 21st century politics as he did back in the early years of the 20th.

Heller lulls the reader into a false sense of security at times. Just when you've accepted the fact that Taft is alive and breathing, he drops bombshells that entirely alter your perception of what the novel is actually about. Woven together with official missives interspersed with the story, you'll find yourself fact-checking and looking into Taft's equally interesting real life to see how Heller has constructed a version of Taft that fits the scope of the story.

Regardless of your stance on politics or your interest in how they do things 'over the pond', taken as a novel examining the massive changes over the course of more than 100 years, seen through the eyes of a sharp witted and amiable political figure, it's a rather engrossing read - and firmly establishes Heller as a writer to keep a firm eye on.

(Our thanks to Mat Archer and Quirk Books for our review copy of Taft 2012)

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