Charm Offensive by William Thacker

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Charm Offensive by William Thacker

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Susmita Chatto
Reviewed by Susmita Chatto
Summary: Retired politician Joe is named in a tabloid slur. Can he mend his reputation, his relationships - and regenerate his life?
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 251 Date: March 2014
Publisher: Legend Press
ISBN: 978-1909878532

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When Joe, a retired politician is named in a tabloid slur he is faced with mending his reputation. Can he regenerate his life? William Thacker has chosen a heady combination for his first novel; politics and PR. A book like this has immediate appeal on the basis of being so contemporary and almost painfully pertinent to our times, so I was really looking forward to reading it.

Overall, it didn't disappoint. The beginning was incredibly filmic (as one might expect, given that Thacker is also a screenwriter) and his beautifully sparse description was so piercingly accurate that I could picture the body language accompanying the feelings of the devastated cast as I was introduced to them.

Thacker has an extremely economic style, which works very well for all the scene setting and character introduction at the start of the book, and also at the crisis points. However, I did have a little trouble with it at stages where I just needed a little bit more telling; but if you want to read a great example of show, don’t tell – this is a great one.

The story lends itself well to that narrative style. Even if you insulate yourself from politics and PR, it’s amazing how much seeps through into your general knowledge; Thacker’s writing recognises that. He knows exactly what he does and doesn't need to say in order to illustrate both his meanings and to flesh out his characters. Thacker also has an acute understanding of how a range of political matters play out in the zeitgeist, with all types of voter (and probably non-voter!). There is also a great sense of how London fits into that, so if you’re a Londoner with an interest in politics, PR and journalism (from the best to the worst kind), this will be a real treat.

That said, the personal relationships are also vital to the novel; it strikes the right balance between dealing with Joe’s professional reputation and his family life. The interaction between Joe Street and his PR man, Barry, is the most fascinating of the relationships; I can’t say why because I don’t want to give anything away! Thacker’s observations are so acute sometimes they seem almost cruel, but they are perfectly apt for the story. If Thacker was directing a film, he would know when to convey worlds of emotion with a mere alteration to facial muscles, and this ability shines through his writing.

Additionally, there are many moments of humour popping up at the most unexpected times and helping to pace a story which is at times, quite harsh in how it exposes human nature. A story like this is bound to be harsh, but while I've seen any number of political oddities played out in the press over the years, the thing about fiction is that it brings it closer to home, bizarrely.

Speaking of human nature, the one thing I did feel was missing was a little more insight into the characters. At some points, I felt not that they were lacking in humanity exactly, but that not enough of it was appearing on the page. At first I wondered if it was coming across that way in order to emphasise some of the times they felt empty or confused, but the overall effect, for me, was that it was a little harder to engage with them than it should have been. Thacker is clearly a very talented writer so it may be just a particular niggle that I have and that no one else will notice.

Overall, this is an extremely clever and contemporary novel which I'm sure will be enjoyed by many types of reader.

If this book appeals then you might enjoy The Golden Hour by William Nicholson.

Buy Charm Offensive by William Thacker at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Charm Offensive by William Thacker at

Buy Charm Offensive by William Thacker at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Charm Offensive by William Thacker at


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