Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Ghost

After seeing the movie The Ghost Writer, reading the novel, The Ghost, by Robert Harris, was an unexpected pleasure. In my previous post, I tried to make sense of the plot and answer some of the questions I found in the movie, so I read the book. Novels written by British authors are interesting for me because they work with our common language in clever, entertaining sentence structures and word choices that send me to the dictionary. It is very enlightening to read impressions of America through the viewpoint of people from other countries. We aren't always perceived in the light that we view ourselves.

Like the movie, the atmosphere of the novel is gray, gray, and more gray. The January weather on Martha's Vineyard sets the scene appropriate to the sense of events that are out of the control of the characters. The hopelessness is brought to mind by the groundskeeper who keeps cleaning up leaves and storm debris only to find it inevitably, repeatedly returns. His struggle is as pointless as the struggle of the characters to make choices that will lead them to more desirable circumstances.

The world that "the ghost" enters is unfamiliar and he becomes lured into it motivated only by the desire to complete his project. He is so unimportant to the outcome of events that we don't even know his name. As he tries to solve the puzzle that is the manuscript penned by his deceased predecessor, he fears he will fall victim to the same fate. The memoirs of the ex-prime minister is completed and published. In solving the puzzle of the life of his subject, the desire of the narrator/ghost writer to remain in the background is out of his control in the end. He becomes as much a pawn as his subject in global intrigue.

The experiences of the movie and the novel were not boring. I take my entertainment too seriously sometimes, but The Ghost makes one think a lot about the world and the powers that control it. Fiction, yes, but sometimes "truth is stranger than fiction." Not a happy thought, but it's realistic.


  1. I just started reading "Shantaram" which is one of the biggest books I've ever read, so it will be awhile before I'm free to start another. I'll put this one on my list of Must Reads. Probably not right in the middle of winter, though. :-)

  2. I read the reviews of that book on Amazon--quite an undertaking. I would have to clear my calendar and set aside a blizzard for that one. I will be interested to hear if that one is worth a thousand pages.