Books

Family Politics by John O'Farrell review – a plea to engage with those whose views we abhor

O’Farrell’s latest has more laugh-out-loud gags than the Tory party has had recent leadership campaigns.

The current government having placed itself beyond satire, John O’Farrell aims his literary arrow at the Culture War and the “tolerance” of the left in his latest offering, Family Politics.

When Oxford graduate Dylan moves home to Hastings and asks for a “deep, meaningful chat” with his Labour activist parents, they seize on it as an opportunity to burnish their progressive credentials. But Dylan isn’t gay or trans or a Maoist, he is a Tory; and for Eddie and Emma that places him beyond the pale. As Dylan allies himself with the Conservative candidate standing against Eddie in a high-profile Westminster by-election, domestic carnage ensues. 

Family Politics is a critique of electioneering in the age of social media and a plea for us all to engage with those whose views we abhor. It is saved from preachiness by O’Farrell’s deft touch and more laugh-out-loud gags than the Tory party has had recent leadership campaigns. That O’Farrell chooses to tell the story through the eyes of the conflicted Emma is a risk that pays off. It allows him to poke fun at Eddie – a man who cannot understand why everyone equates Hastings with the Norman Conquest when it is also the setting for The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists

Some people may rail against a novel which punctures the posturing of the left when the right is so much worse. But it is healthy to confront your own foibles. Family Politics provides enough moments of self-recognition to leave the left-leaning reader chuckling until the end. 

Family Politics by John O’Farrell is out 14 March (Doubleday, £20). You can buy it from The Big Issue shop on Bookshop.org, which helps to support The Big Issue and independent bookshops.

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