Federal Follies

Peggy Thompson

The two protagonists in Sussex Drive by Linda Svendsen (Random House Canada)—Becky Leggatt, dedicated and capable wife of the stubborn, doughy, religious-rock-opera-writing Prime Minister Greg Leggatt; and Lise Lavoie, the charismatic African-born Governor General—become embroiled in a series of conspiracies, minority governments and ultimately a realization that something is very wrong. Greg Leggatt prorogues Parliament frequently, has a pastor/advisor and lives and breathes the hope of majority, leaving Becky to deal with the ArtsCAN! benefit, lead dignitaries’ wives around the Museum of Civilization, manipulate her media mole at the Mother Corpse (the National Broadcaster) and her “best” friend Lise.

The book opens in 28, in what we know is a parallel universe because the Queen has given up the throne, although the financial crunch, the listeriosis crisis (“death by a thousand cold cuts”) and the war in Afghanistan are all happening. “Becky couldn’t sleep. It could have been the vise of heat; it could have been the gastrointestinal impact of the kebabs, wrapped in red leaf ‘Liberal’ lettuce ripped from Margaret Trudeau’s vegetable patch, served at the barbecue for Pakistan’s ambassador; it could have been Greg’s freakish snore, akin to a geriatric squirrel’s with apnea…”

In Sussex Drive, Svendsen, who has displayed her sharp analysis of Canadian and international dirty dealings in her television mini-series Human Cargo, transforms her anger and frustration at what we have become (complacent, greedy, hypocritical, gutted) into a thoroughly entertaining, thoroughly Canadian cri de coeur.

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