Book Review: Just Boris – A Tale of Blond Ambition

JUST BORIS: A Tale of Blond AmbitionJUST BORIS: A Tale of Blond Ambition by Sonia Purnell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Journalist Simon Heffer once wrote “Mr. (Boris) Johnson is not a politician. He is an act. For some of us the joke has worn not thin, but out. Yet many less cynical than I am find it appealing. It conceals two things: a blinding lack of attention to detail and ruthless ambition. He is pushy, he is thoughtless, he is indiscreet about his private life; none of this matters much to anyone these days, which is why he has gone so far in spite of them, and tomorrow may go further still.” Heffer wrote that in 2008 when Johnson beat ken Livingstone to be the mayor of London, however his words have struck a chord with me while I was reading Sonia Purnell’s ‘Just Boris – a Tale of Blond Ambition,’ an unauthorised biography of Johnson with a variety of sources on and it seems off the record.

Johnson, the man who voted and campaigned for Brexit, the man who pulled out of the race to succeed David Cameron as the Tory leader and Prime Minister, and widely blamed for not having a plan post referendum coupled with half-baked lies during the campaign has Heffer’s analysis spot on. Johnson supported Brexit not for the national interest but more out of blind ambition. My perspective was Johnson supported Brexit, assuming remain would win by a small margin, yet Johnson would be in a strong position to succeed Cameron as PM when he would stand aside due to his euro-sceptic credentials which he would have amassed during the Brexit campaign. Yet, as we know that was not the case as the country voted to leave the European Union, and somewhat put Johnson’s blind ambition slightly on hold.

Written before the 2012 Mayoral election, Purnell’s biography managed to get into the psyche of Boris, even though she did not speak to the man or his family at all. The New Statesman called it a ’Thorough study…sharply narrated and diligently researched.’ Standpoint called it ‘Meticulous and quietly devastating,’ while Camila Long of the Sunday Times said the book was “Filled with gems … will make uncomfortable reading for Boris.”

Purnell uses the book as a forensic examination of Boris with facts, humour and analysis backed up by quotes and recollections. She demonstrates that the man who is seen as a bumbler, buffoon and butt of jokes on Have I Got News For You does not go through Eton and Oxford, gets elected as President of the Oxford Union, works for the Daily Telegraph in Brussels, becomes editor of the Spectator and then goes into politics as MP and Mayor of London yet maintain the popular charisma and charm and the odd affair. Boris comes across as a buffoon yet Purnell shows that behind the buffoonery is a man who knows what he really wants.

Purnell succeeds in speaking to people who love and loath Boris. Reading the book brought some interesting facts and stories about Boris made me admire him for his determination, yet made me also loath him for his contempt for public service by using it as celebrity, lack of facts and lack of attention to detail.

Purnell, if she wants to could write up volume II of ‘Blond Ambition,’ exposing and analysing the second term of as mayor of London, his quest as MP, plans to usurp and hopefully replace David Cameron. Reasons for supporting Brexit, the fallout of Brexit and what the future will hold for Boris and his naked ambition to climb the greasy pole of British politics.

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Book Review: The Thunder That Roars

91ys5goXaZL._SL1500_“The Young journalist has an exceptional grasp of world affairs, which he attribute to his hyphenated identity. He says. ‘Well I sometimes wonder. Am I South African? Am I an Indian? Am I a Muslim? Rather, more wonderfully, am I all these things blended into one and created for a purpose? I have been obsessed with these issues, Middle Eastern politics, migration, social justice, for long as I remember. It could be all because I am a a baby of the new South Africa. We were born into a miracle and an ideal, at the same time as our country reinvented itself and soothed the painful scars of racial oppression.” You would think Imran Garda was writing about himself?  However, in this case they are the words of Yusuf Carrim, the protagonist in The Thunder That Roars, the debut novel by Garda.

A book I managed to read in two days, Garda brings his descriptive magic, wit, current affairs, identity, religion, travelling monologue and short bursts of African and Indian heritage and eccentricities into a seismic mix of intrigue and what happens next mode.

The characters in the book are full of flavour, from Barack the Somali refugee to Sukuzukuduma the Zimbabwean veteran patriach. Garda relates their stories intertwined into events and moments that any student of current affairs can relate to.

As someone who has worked in a newsroom there were instances in novel where I thought, damn, why couldn’t live the professional life of Carrim, at times his experiences were too good to be true (but of course not with the emotional baggage related to his new found heritage), but nevertheless, who wouldn’t want to be a famous international journalist jet setting the world and managing to deliver the odd Juma Khutbah?.

Garda, in my opinion strikes it gold by weaving the story of Carrim into the narratives of the Arab Spring, South African Indian Islam, racism, migrant workers and immigration coupled with a thorough description of life and surroundings of New York, Johannesburg, Bulawayo and Lampedusa. Similarly the characters of Yusuf, Jack, Fehmida and Naazim can be related to any man of Gujarati descent. I enjoyed studying these characters and their experiences, whether it was the realism of Yusuf, the panache and guilt of Jack, the unfulfilled yet material life of Fehmida and the ‘son I never had’ character of Naazim. I understood their complexities and mindsets as I for one felt I not only knew them but may have met their types in Sandton, Birmingham and Toronto.

If you are someone who has an understanding of identity politics, African society and a passion for international affairs coupled into a story of fiction where it is not related to a middle class European narrative then this book is the one for you. The Thunder That Roars is not only a debut novel for Imran Garda, but an inspiration for many current and former journalists that a career in literature writing can be achieved. I just can’t wait for his second book.