‘O – A Presidential Story’

    It is the ideal time to be reading ‘O: A Presidential Novel’. Spanning the period of spring 2011 to November 2012 the novel pursues the United States presidential election, specifically the re-election campaign of the novel’s existing President and his republican rival.


    While both men are principal to the plot, the novel importantly follows the occupational and personal lives of party insiders, journalists and donors. This gives readers a detailed understanding of the complexities of presidential campaigns, including the implications of insiders’ personal lives and, consequentially, the campaigns’ fragile standing in the press.


    It is not this time span alone that makes this novel relevant. As stated in the opening page, the novel’s democratic president, simply named ‘O’, is ‘a black man with a Muslim name’ who is married with daughters. Combined with the novel’s writer being termed ‘Anonymous’ it doesn’t take a political genius to realise this novel was genuinely written by a White House insider with access to President Obama.


    This authorial authenticity makes the novel all the more gripping. If this novel had not been penned by a figure shrouded in mystery, protecting themself by donning an anonymity cloak, it would not be nearly as fascinating. This is further made evident by the novel’s lack of beautiful prose; this novel does not rival Fitzgerald or Hemingway in its style. Instead, ‘O: A Presidential Novel’ simply offers a rare and insightful perspective of the lives of those embroiled in presidential campaigns.


    Most engaging are the imagined thoughts of the two key party runners. For example, we are privy to the honest, weary and often amusing contemplations of O, such as when internally complaining about his lot:


    Here you go, Mr President, a big, fat, catastrophic, global recession, courtesy of your predecessor, now go dig us out of it overnight, will you, by playing small ball. And remember to play nice with the Republicans while you do it.


    This really is an intriguing and educational read, made particularly beguiling by the current build up to the American presidential election. A single line on the book’s blurb very much summarises the value of the novel: ‘Sometimes only a novel can tell the truth.’




    Reviewed by Lucy Richards, an English Literature graduate who consumes books almost as fast as 400g slabs of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk. I blog, I read and I drink tea as I stumble my way through life. I am, in a nutshell, Jane Eyre in training.

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