House of Fun: 20 glorious years in parliament by Simon Hoggart

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House of Fun: 20 glorious years in parliament by Simon Hoggart

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Category: Politics and Society
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: A collection of parliamentary sketches covering a period of twenty years. They're entertaining, thought-provoking and occasionally laugh-out-loud funny.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 352 Date: November 2012
Publisher: Guardian Books
ISBN: 978-0852653814

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House of Fun is a selection of some of the best of the parliamentary sketches which Simon Hoggart has written for the Guardian. In time they range from the 1993 Liberal Conference (as as you're probably thinking it, it's worth quoting the Little changes... except, periodically, the name of the party) through to the G4S (another case where there have been name changes...) debacle just prior to the 2012 Olympics. So far as Prime Ministers are concerned, we start with John Major and wend our way through to Cameron, with the Conservatives book-ending the Blair/Brown war. But the point about parliamentary sketches is that they are under no obligation to record the major events: they illuminate the unusual, the usually unrecorded and the thought-provoking incidents of life in the political world.

They're short in length - usually not more than a couple of pages and occasionally less - and whilst they're arranged in chronological order it's no problem to dip in and out as the mood takes you, or you're reminded of a particular time. The humour is gentle (just occasionally it's laugh-out-loud funny) and only with a piece about Dr David Kelly did I wonder if discretion might have been the better part of republication. In fairness, Hoggart reflected on this point too. Otherwise the people who are the butt of his humour are capable of looking after themselves.

Writing a book is a completely different prospect to writing a regular newspaper column. I found when reading a similar collection by Nigel Slater that the devices used in the columns became more obvious when the work was read en masse, so to speak. In fact it was quite a while before I regained my enjoyment of Salter's regular Observer column. Hoggart has his own devices. Variations on I made that last bit up appear far too regularly and it took me a little while to appreciate that there was a certain black humour in my counting the number of occasions when Hoggart counted the number of verbless sentences spoken by Tony Blair. It's a minor gripe though and the problem is at least partially alleviated by some thoughtful inserts from Hoggart.

The upside is the pleasure of realising that there are vast numbers of people in the political arena who are not front-of-stage players. There are names with which you might be slightly familiar, people you've almost forgotten and those you never knew at all, but they'll all brought to life in a few carefully crafted sentences. I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

Political diarists are obliged to cover the main events and we've found that Chris Mullin is particularly good. You might also enjoy Off Message: The Complete Antidote to Political Humbug by Bob Marshall-Andrews.

Buy House of Fun: 20 glorious years in parliament by Simon Hoggart at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy House of Fun: 20 glorious years in parliament by Simon Hoggart at Amazon.co.uk


Buy House of Fun: 20 glorious years in parliament by Simon Hoggart at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy House of Fun: 20 glorious years in parliament by Simon Hoggart at Amazon.com.

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