by Harper Collins.
1st October 2001.
ISBN: 0-00-65215-8 (PB)
When the British and Irish governments decide to hold a conference intended to resolve some of the sensitive cultural issues in Anglo-Irish relations, Baroness (Jack) Troutbeck seems an unlikely choice as chairwoman. Until one recalls her late-night drinking session at the Lords with a visiting Irish delegation, when she waxed lyrical about her excursions to the emerald isle when she was a girl. And so, her friend, Robert Amiss finds himself organising the conference.
Gathered together in a pink monstrosity masquerading as Moycoole Castle are the republications, nicknamed 'MOPE' 'Most Oppressed People Ever' their loyalist equivalents, nicknamed DUPE, 'Downtrodden Unionists for Parity Esteem'. Also present, delegates from Wales, and Kelly-Mae O'Hara from America representing the American Catholics, plus a Japanese Irish studies specialist to observe and record the event. All in all, a mixed bag.
I have not encountered Baroness Troutbeck before, but I loved her immediately, and feel strongly that if she had chaired some of the conferences I have attended, they would have benefited greatly from her wit and wisdom, particularly the latter when she continually cuts short the speeches in order to head for the bar. Also, most worthy of mention is the waitress Philomena, whose firm grasp on the essentials was something to behold. In a few words of dialogue Philomena materialised before me. I wouldn't like to cross her, but I'd like her on my side. Even before the conference has begun several people have dropped out and the numbers are considerably reduced, but they are soon to be reduced even further, as one by one the delegates start to meet with fatal accidents.
A wonderful piece of satire, but one which I may have
appreciated more had I a firm grasp on Irish politics, but on reflection, maybe
the book illustrates that no one really has a firm grasp on Irish politics.
Sparkling dialogue, I started to put post-it notes on the pages with passages
of particular brilliance and then found I had as many post-it notes as pages.
Reviewer: Lizzie Hayes
Ruth Dudley Edwards is the author of twelve books in this series featuring Robert Amis, ex-civil servant, London.