House of Cards by Michael Dobbs

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LOVE the Netflix series that was adapted from this novel, so I just had to get it.

And I am so, so glad I watched the TV show before picking up it up because otherwise, I wouldn’t have finished it.

This book was a hard read.

Maybe it’s because I’m not British or familiar with international politics, but for the first half I had several Wikipedia pages open on my iPad just so I can follow the plot. There’s a Government and Opposition and Her Majesty’s Government and what? If you’re confused, be ready to do some serious Googling if you pick this up.

The story itself was strange. It seemed like every character was bystander of what has been put into effect by Francis Urquhart (Frank Underwood in the Netflix series). Even Francis himself is a bystander. We don’t really get to see his thought process as he schemes, only the results. Matty Storin (Zoe Barnes) is the opposite. We see her thought process but she doesn’t actually have any effect – thus bystander. Roger O’Neil (Pete Russo), with all the actions he’d taken, had zero control over both himself and the outcomes – thus also a bystander. Speaking of control, it seemed like everyone was an alcoholic, a liar, and an asshole. Though I guess that’s politics, eh?

However, the book was made an immensely more enjoyable read by the Netflix TV series (I haven’t seen the BBC version). The show has not just the scheming that made the novel, but it provides us with the characters that are missing.

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Francis and Claire. Two incredibly complex and powerful and flawed people who make the show what it is. In the book, she is mentioned maybe a dozen of times, and yet I saw a bit of her in Claire. It’s strange, because usually TV adaptations cut up characters instead of expanding them, but in this case I wished for more.

Another reason I’m glad I watched the show first is spoilers. The book would have spoiled some of the most shocking moments of the first season, but I didn’t feel the same way about the opposite. I had no idea just how much was adapted and it was still a pleasant surprise to see it work out the way it did.

The best part of the book were the quotes in the beginning of each chapter. They give us that little insight into Frank’s mind.

For example: “Loyalty may be good news, but it is rarely good advice.

Another I loved: “All members of a Cabinet are referred to as Right Honorable Gentlemen. There are only three things wrong with such a title…” 

And another that was actually used in the TV series: “Politics. The word is taken from the Ancient Greek. “Poly” means “many”. And ticks are tiny, bloodsucking insects.” Fantastic.

I must say, I’m glad I read it, even though it wasn’t exactly an enjoyable or fun read. Just being able to make connections between the book and show was enough to keep it interesting. So my advice is, if you’ve seen and liked the show it’s worth a look.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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