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The Prime Minister's Daughter

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Mayflower, St Albans, 1974
(price: 40p; 224 pages)
first published in Great Britain by Hamish Hamilton, 1964

dedication: to Natasha

The blurb on the back:

The private lives of people in power.
Randall cannot control his wife. He certainly can't control his daughter. But he can, as Prime Minister, brilliantly control the government. And when a better man might have toppled and gone under, he remains unscathed in one of the most sinister and thrilling political novels ever published.

'Outstanding. A first-class story-teller with the style and vivid tautness of a Kipling' - Illustrated London News
'Splendid entertainment ... Edelman is a wonderfully readable writer, a quality he shares with Somerset Maugham' -
Times Literary Supplement
'Edelman is a most practised writer of political fiction. The plot, the dialogue, the suspense, the atmosphere, all reveal a marvellous skill' - Michael Foot

opening lines:
'Is that his head?' said Lady Drayford. Her voice, commanding even as she inquired, overlaid the
allegretto grazioso.

We start with the launch of a movement to combat the spread of pornography. Later we see an ambitious young backbench MP get a new job as a newspaper columnist, a Chancellor of the Exchequer lose his job in a reshuffle and a press baron fail to get recognized in the Honours List. And behind it all are flashbacks of the Prime Minister's daughter having an affair with a married man whilst in America.

It all seems potentially interesting, and those quotes on the back are matched by further praise inside from the Observer, Glasgow Herald, Irish Times, New Statesman and The Times. I don't like to fly in the face of such unanimity , but I have to say, I don't get it. I mean, it's perfectly well-written (though Kipling and Somerset Maugham is pushing it) but it doesn't really hang together and frankly I don't really see why Mr Edelman bothered to write it. Really, what was the point? It's not a proper novel - just a random collection of incidents - it doesn't tell you anything you didn't already know and it lacks any satirical thrust.

Oh well, here it is. It's got a nice cover. And - to be fair - there are occasional flashes of insight, as in this account of the hapless Chancellor:

What had made matters worse was Lacey's off-the-cuff comment to a TV interviewer before a Guildhall dinner when, stepping in white tie and tails out of his car, he said in connexion with a new redundancy of nearly ten thousand aircraft workers,
'In times of change, we must all make a few sacrifices and put up with some transitional inconvenience.' (p.84)

Mr EdelmanThis, remember, was written in 1964. Nice to see that politicians were always dumb in their dealings with the media.

Maurice Edelman (1911-75), incidentally, was the Labour MP for Coventry North-West until his death (he was followed by the entirely blameless Geoffrey Robinson) and also wrote some other stuff like The Minister (1961), The Crossfire (televised in 1967) and some non-fiction. You might also wish to know that this novel was itself turned into a television play in 1970 for Thames TV's Armchair Theatre series.