This is the sequel to the author's House of Cards novel and TV series. Francis Urquhart is now Prime Minister and the plot of this novel concerns his constitutional struggle with a King with a social conscience (clearly based heavily on Prince Charles) appalled by the actions of the PM who governs in his name, but whom Urquhart regards as interfering with the right of the elected government to govern. Crucial constitutional and political arguments are thus laid out, and the author as elsewhere lays out the full cynicism of political and media manipulation, albeit that it is painted in colours a little too simplistic, lacking the complexities of the relationships between politics, the media and the public that are always in reality present beneath the surface. This book is as well written as its predecessor, but somewhat lacks its narrative drive, as Urquhart, having risen to the top, is now essentially looking for enemies to fights as he exercises power for its own sake. Unlike the House of Cards novel, the ending of this one has not changed to match the TV version, and while the divergences are not quite as stark as in its predecessor's case, Urquhart is nevertheless significantly damaged here by the end of the story.
To Play the King - eBook
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House of Cards
The second instalment ...
The second instalment in the story of Francis Urquhart starts with his appointment as Prime Minister, having engineered the downfall of his predecessor, Tory colleague Henry Collingridge. As is so often the case, however, Urquhart finds almost immediately that the long sought after role is not quite what he had hoped or expected. In addition to the fallout of the political unrest (much of it his own doing as he sought to unsettle Collingridge), he finds himself at odds with the King, who is reluctant to adopt the remote role anticipated by the politicians. This sets the tone for the novel, with Downing Street and Buckingham Palace locked in conflict. Urquhart is a supreme Machiavellian, constantly scheming and at any one time calculating the likely outcome of a range of different scenarios. He does not, however, recognise that other people might also have their own hidden agenda, completely overlook the possibility that anyone else might be just as devious as him. This was entertaining, but fell short of its predecessor, House of Cards. While the conflict between Urquhart and the King touches on important constitutional issues, just as valid today as they were twenty years ago when the novel was written, their portrayal in the book seems too contrived. There were some lovely vignettes, and the depiction of the outspoken and curmudgeonly Labour backbencher, clearly based on Denis Skinner (still going strong today), was very amusing
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