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The Tyrant's Novel    by Thomas Keneally order for
Tyrant's Novel
by Thomas Keneally
Order:  USA  Can
Nan A. Talese, 2004 (2004)
* *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

Australian Thomas Keneally (award-winning author of Schindler's List and Office of Innocence) has created another literary work-of-art. The Tyrant's Novel is a story within a story, an allegory of world politics, and historical and moral issues. The novel's star is 'Alan Sheriff', a writer in a detention facility.

Sheriff reveals events which led to his internment, to interviewers. His name is westernized as are names of other key characters - Alan's actress wife Sarah, Louise James, Mrs. Carter, Peter Collins, and Matt McBrien. The government regime and country Sheriff speaks of is Keneally's representation of that of a recently deposed ruler. The tyrant is named Great Uncle. There is also his son Sonny, 'the Overguards' (military police), 'the Overalls' (metro police), and government official Chaddock.

Sheriff tells of his marriage to actress Sarah at the cost of offending his prior lover, Louise James, of whom he says - 'a warrior woman. I had given up someone admirable in the empty hope of someone transcendent'. Sarah left theater acting, and died suddenly, to Alan's distress. While employed by the National Broadcasting Network, Alan was requested to write a book assigning authorship to Great Uncle. Alan's composition deadline was one month, and the story was to include a theme which would adversely affect the West, specifically the United States.

Alan says, 'I was to be made the emperor's caged canary.' Working with assigned mentor Matt McBrien, Sheriff vacillated between writing a story or waiting out the thirty days and accepting fate. He also had the option of retrieving an already written story that would fit Great Uncle's request. But, it meant digging up the grave of his beloved Sarah where said book was buried. Louise James reappears in the story as a reporter from the United States who gained permission to meet with Alan at his residence.

Keneally assigns a human touch to each of his characters, writing of a country in which 'Men in ragged clothes were busy on pittance-paying tasks of an ill-defined nature. The broken promises of the world and of regimes were seamed into their faces like grit and legible in their bent backs.' For readers who crave challenging literature, The Tyrant's Novel is an intelligent, emotional story of agonizing loss, and horror, compromised principle, and survival of the human spirit under a tyrannical dictatorship.

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