CBR11bingo: Two heads are better than one
Allow me to introduce my husband, Peter! He is an avid reader but isn’t part of this community (yet). I’m working on him.
A little background about the book: You may have heard of a British TV show called Rumpole of the Bailey, about a barrister named Horace Rumpole who defends various clients (the Old Bailey being the main criminal court in London). The creator is one John Mortimer, also a British barrister. I had never seen the television show, nor was I aware that this character appeared in other media, but I learned that the series spawned a number of short stories and books as well as a BBC radio program. Apparently Rumple is quite the thing across the pond.
In this novel, Rumple defends a British-Pakistani doctor named Mahmood Khan who is accused of being a terrorist. “Defends” is a stretch, because he first has to get the government to charge and prosecute his client.
Kim: So, Peter, as I read this book, it occurred to me that it’s much more up your street than mine. What about it appeals to you?
Peter: Rumpole is stereotypical, classical British curmudgeon.
Kim: And that appeals to you, does it?
Peter. Yup. I wish society still behaved that way. I hate all this social networking and such. He’s kind of a Luddite, which I’m not, but I like that he does things his own way.
Kim: So in this novel, the government arrests Khan on suspicion of terrorism, but Rumpole has to force their hand to get them to even hold a trial. I’m wondering whether that is legal in the U.K.
Peter: I don’t know the intricacies of British law, but my reading of the book is that the Home Office, which is Britain’s immigration enforcement, is allowed to try him in a secret court. It didn’t strike me as implausible that they’d be able to shunt a suspected terrorist away somewhere.
Kim: Yeah, given that it was written by a barrister, I’m going to assume he knows the law and take him at his word. I’m calling this a bit of fluff, but it’s actually a pretty serious topic. A lot of people try to tell Rumpole not to take the case and “terrorists don’t deserve defending.” Did any of that strike a chord with you?
Peter: It’s interesting how quickly people are willing to give up civil rights out of fear. They make assumptions about the “other,” in this case a Pakistani, and think the accused doesn’t deserve the same rights as a “real” citizen. It’s much like what has been happening in this country (the U.S.).
Kim: Very much so. I liked the line where Rumple says, “. . .you know I’m just an old taxi. If a client flags me down, I’m bound to give them a ride. To the best of my ability.” It shows not only that Rumpole believes in the rule of law (innocence until proven guilty) but also that he’s a pragmatic, no-nonsense type of guy.
Now I have to bring up something that bothered me. What about the relationship between Rumple and his wife? He calls her She Who Must Be Obeyed, and not in a pleasant, teasing way. And to be fair, she’s pretty much a shrew. They seem to really dislike each other.
Peter: Well, that type of marriage is completely foreign to me!
Peter: She’s also tentatively “stepping out” on him. To be honest, I didn’t give those parts much thought beyond that.
Kim: It really bothered me that she’s such a caricature of a shallow, silly woman. I just looked John Moritimer up on Wikipedia and it said his first marriage ended in a bitter divorce.
Peter: There you go.
Kim: Also both of Mortimer’s wives were named Penelope which seems odd.
I do want to say there were some funny lines in this book. I like when he was having lunch with a member of Parliament (MP), who says of the wine, “I’ve chosen a rather unpretentious little St. Emilion, Rumpole. I think you’ll find it amusing.” And Rumpole responds, “I’m sure I’ll find it hilarious.” That’s some good wine humor.
What star rating would you give this book?
Peter: For me a 3 is average, meaning I enjoyed it well enough. So I’d give it a 3.
Kim: Anything else you want to say in conclusion?
Peter: For a light read, I thought it had an important message. It was an easy, pleasant read. I’d be curious to read more.
Kim: Not me, I’m out. But I could give the TV show a try.