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To start with, this book ought to be subtitled, "A Political Fairy Tale."

Fairy Tale:
“A story that features fantasy characters…a story blessed with unusual happiness…especially a story that is not only not true, but could not possibly be true."
Which pretty well sums up "The Best Laid Plans" in a nutshell. The skill of the author involves persuading the reader that, at any given moment, the actions he has dreamed up could be true.

The Plot
 Consider this in the cold light of day: A disenchanted political hack leaves Parliament Hill in Ottawa to take up a calm and safe post as an English teacher at a nearby university. The last political debt he incurs is to find a candidate to run in that riding for the next federal election. He ends up with a candidate who agrees to run on the condition that he is going to lose for certain. (Once again, I mention that in the context of the story, these events seem perfectly reasonable at the time. Not bad, eh?)
It isn't much of a spoiler to tell you that, of course, the candidate wins.
He then becomes the perfect Member of Parliament, because he doesn't care if he gets re-elected. So he isn’t sullied by political machinations, and being the moral type he is, he determines to act for the good of the Canadian people. Period. Which of course makes him anathema to the rest of Parliament, but incredibly popular with said Canadian public. Which leads him further into his campaign to show them all how a politician is supposed to act.  
Since this is a fairy tale, of course he does. The result is a highly entertaining story that leaves us all with a burning desire to change politics forever. Once we finish our popcorn.
Since all fairy tales have a moral, this story is also a paean to the ideals of Canadian liberalism, and a denunciation of everything conservative. But you can’t please everybody.

A Minor Quibble
In spite of my enjoyment of the story, I do have one small complaint. You may have noticed that the princess in a fairy tale is usually a very boring creature. All she has to do is flounce around and be pretty, since she is only the symbol for the ideal that the Handsome Prince is supposed to be striving for. Unfortunately, this is also the case in “The Best Laid Plans.” There is a love story, true, but the young lady in question is first introduced as being completely desirable. After that, she only exists to provide the main character with a love interest. In a story that shows us an abundance of interesting characters speaking and acting in weird and wonderful ways, the interactions between the main character and his crush are completely "told" by the author: little dialogue, no action, no tension, sexual or otherwise. A real missed opportunity. And no, I’m not going to tell you whether the “Best Laid” part applies.


The Essential Canadian Political Primer
But we must admire the skill of this writer; he teaches us more about the workings of the Canadian Parliament than a class in National Politics 101, and makes us care about the outcome. How very Canadian: a story where the resolution of the conflict depends on an interpretation of Parliamentary House Procedures. And we lap it up. It might be remembered that Fallis won the Stephen Leacock award for this book. It might also be observed that Leacock wasn't especially funny by modern standards. He was humorous, touching, witty, creative, and he absolutely nailed the characters that populated his novels. So goes Terry Fallis.

Recommended for all Canadians, and anyone who wants a pleasant fairy tale to lift the spirits. Not recommended for those of the right wing persuasion. It will give you nightmares. It’s not like you’re going to learn anything from it.

Four stars out of five.











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