Sam Gilchrist -former presidential speechwriter, half English, half American -now contemplates the failure of his marriage and his career, washed up on the shore of Reagan's America. On retreat to Cape Cod, he realizes that in order to forestall personal collapse he will have to come to grips with the moment in his life that he would most like to forget. In London in 1977, at the height of his success, he finds himself drawn into a painful and passionate affair. Ruth, his lover, introduces him to a stranger who ...
Sam Gilchrist -former presidential speechwriter, half English, half American -now contemplates the failure of his marriage and his career, washed up on the shore of Reagan's America. On retreat to Cape Cod, he realizes that in order to forestall personal collapse he will have to come to grips with the moment in his life that he would most like to forget. In London in 1977, at the height of his success, he finds himself drawn into a painful and passionate affair. Ruth, his lover, introduces him to a stranger who relates a mesmerizing story -a shocking "dirty tricks" conspiracy by disenchanted patriots to topple the British administration. At the conclusion of their meeting, stirred and fascinated by these allegations, Gilchrist makes a promise. But almost immediately he discovers that to keep it he may have to betray his own father, a distant but powerful figure at the heart of the British ruling class.
Now, five years later, his father is dead and the stranger's predictions have come true, leaving Gilchrist to untangle an intrigue spanning two countries and two governments, exposing far-reaching, unsuspected machinations of power at every turn. As he uncovers layers of deceit and betrayal, he must also calculate the cost of his allegiances to his lover, his father, and his own confused identity. Jubilee is an emotionally charged thriller that unites the intensely personal with the intensely political to explore the nature treachery. And it is, Finally, Sam Gilchrist's story: part confession and part quest, however compromised, for the truth.
Best known in the U.S. as the author of The Story of English , McCrum, who is editorial director of Faber & Faber in London, has written several novels that barely made their way here. His new one is accomplished: smoothly written, artfully constructed and infused with a real sense of the hollow posturing at the heart of so much of public life. Narrator Sam Gilchrist, a speechwriter for President Carter, lives an uneasily transatlantic existence: his father, Admiral Lefevre, is a retired British admiral who was a bigwig in the Secret Service; his mother, after their divorce, returned to her home in America. (Angry at his father, Sam has adopted his mother's maiden name.) Sam's life is disintegrating along with the Carter administration; and both the sexy Australian journalist with whom he is deceiving his wife, and a mysterious, rather pathetic Scots army officer, who had known his father in Northern Ireland, seem convinced that Admiral Lefevre had been involved in some sort of attempted Whitehall coup. Gradually the reader is drawn into Sam's dilemma about his father as each new foray into the past brings fresh evidence to light. The territory, and something of the polished manner, are very much in the le Carre vein, but McCrum simply doesn't know that world well enough to make it entirely convincing. Still, Admiral Lefevre is a splendid creation, and anyone in search of a highly intelligent suspense novel with unexpected layers of emotion will find it thoroughly involving and satisfying. (June)
Best known for his nonfiction The Story of the English (LJ 8/86), McCrum here takes the reader on a journey into political conspiracy and cover-up, Anglo style. Set in the late 1970s and early 1980s, his fifth novel details an alleged plot by a group of army officers in Northern Ireland to topple a "weak" Labour government. When one of their number breaks ranks, he is framed for murder. The story is brought to the attention of Sam, the narrator, a speech writer for President Carter, by a young Australian journalist with whom he begins an adulterous and doomed affair. The twist is that the leading conspirator turns out to be the narrator's semi-estranged father, and Sam finds himself torn between familial loyalty and his duty to tell the truth that may keep an innocent man out of jail. With just the right touch of cynicism, McCrum slowly peels back layers of his plot, leading the reader to an appreciation of Sam's dilemma and an understanding of his decision. An intelligent, well-written suspense novel best suited to public libraries.-David W. Henderson, Eckerd Coll. Lib., St. Petersburg, Fla.
Robert McCrum is the author of four novels, as well as The Story of English, for which he received an Emmy and a Peabody Award. He was educated at Cambridge and the University of Pennsylvania. He lives in London.
Although not a household name in America, editor and writer Robert McCrum has had an enormous impact on the current state of literature. In his 20 years as Editor-in-Chief at famed British publishing house Faber & Faber, McCrum transformed a largely mediocre fiction list into a roster that included such successful and influential novelists as Peter Carey, Paul Auster, and Vikram Seth. In 1996, McCrum turned a semi-regular stint writing for the British newspaper The Observer into a fulltime position as literary editor, where he remains today. Somewhere along the line, he found the time to publish six of his own novels, co-author a best-selling history of the English language, and research and write a critically lauded biography of English humorist P.G. Wodehouse.
After graduating from Cambridge's Corpus Christi College on a history scholarship, McCrum set off across the pond with a post-graduate scholarship to the University of Pennsylvania. He earned his MA, and then left the world of academia forever, opting instead to take a one-year extended tour of America in his Buick Skylark.
Back in England, McCrum took a job as a publicity assistant at Chatto & Windus. McCrum's intelligence, charm, and competitive streak quickly put him on the map as a rising star in British publishing. In 1979, a mere two years after starting at Chatto & Windus, McCrum began his successful run at Faber and Faber.
Never one to settle for complacency, McCrum published his first novel the following year, a thriller about the inner workings of British national intelligence called In the Secret State. His second novel, A Loss of Heart, was released in 1982. Two years after that, yet another novel, The Fabulous Englishman, was released to solid reviews and sales.
McCrum's biggest success came as co-author 1986 publication of The Story of English, which was released in tandem with a 10-part PBS documentary of the same name. McCrum's work on the series earned him an Emmy and a Peabody award, and the book became an international bestseller that still sells briskly in its 3rd revised edition.
And so McCrum's seemingly charmed life continued into the 90s. A fourth novel, Mainland, came out in 1992, and McCrum was putting the finishing touches on his next novel, Suspicion, when tragedy struck. In the summer of 1995, he awoke to find his entire left side paralyzed by a devastating stroke. Only 42 years old, McCrum's world shifted overnight. The writer's natural curiosity and need to communicate persevered, however, and in 1998 he released a critically-acclaimed memoir of his year spent in recovery entitled My Year Off.
Shortly after the publication of My Year Off, McCrum launched full-force into work on Wodehouse: A Life. Research for the biography of the famed English humorist would take him all over the world, from Wodehouse's homes in California to the German camp where he was interned during World War II to New York City. "It seems to me that you can't begin to understand someone until you see where they lived, what they saw out of the window when they woke up, and the kind of people they were living near," McCrum has said.
Four years spent traveling and reading Wodehouse's vast amounts of published and unpublished works paid off with a biography that critics have hailed as the definitive chronicle of the life of P.G. Wodehouse.
Good To Know
Some outtakes from our interview with McCrum:
"I'm a) tall b) speak English c) like a drink."
"My first job was looking after a parrot in a zoo."