Officially launched this week was the first novel by (yes, it’s her again) Mid Bedfordshire Tory MP Nadine Dorries. A launch party was organised. But over it hung a dark cloud: whatever optimism was on show that evening was tempered by the knowledge that the Telegraph had been banned from the event after Christopher Howse had delivered a scathingly bad review of the book.
The Four Streets is set in 1950s Liverpool, and is said to draw on Ms Dorries’ own memories. On the book, and that assumption, I will offer no further personal comment, other than to note that the fragrant Nadine was born in 1957, and what memory she might have of the 1950s – rather than the following decade – would be quite remarkable if it were so full of detail.
Howse’s review was a masterclass in dismissal and diminution: “Perhaps, if the story had begun at page 289, on which something happens, it might have stood a chance. As it is, the action repeatedly falls from the author’s grip, like a sticky dummy from the lips of a fractious, sickly child in an old pram ... Even a car ploughing into a crocodile of children fails to liven things up”. Ouch!
It gets worse: the Tel is not the only paper to pass less than totally favourable comment on the Dorries meisterwerk, pace the Times: “the writing is, at its best, workmanlike and, at its worst, seems to be assembled from fridge-magnets”. Tim Walker of the Tel told that “It's bonkers. Nadine seemed to be saying only diarists from papers that gave her awful book a glowing review could attend”.
And then came Sarah Ditum at the Staggers: observing “After her remarkable flights from fact in her statements on abortion, it's disappointing to find that Dorries is just not very good at making things up” before concluding “In the face of such awfulness, I put on my best Oirish burr and say: Jaysus, Mary and Joseph, feck this shite”.
The deeply subversive Guardian at least gives the book two stars, but notes “Every overcrowded home in her four streets would appear to be a persuasive argument in favour of birth control in any form. But the children are also bringers of joy and love, and mothers never really die, so maybe that's alright then”. Sadly for Ms Dorries, though, she has also come to the attention of the deeply unpleasant Jan Moir.
Out have come the claws, following that ban on the Tel: “preposterous Tory MP Nadine Dorries banned a journalist from attending a party to launch her new novel – because his newspaper had given her book a bad review. Honestly. Judy Garland in her pomp behaved more sensibly than Nadine”. The publishers and PRs may be starting to get nervous. After all, Ms Dorries secured a big advance, and they will be betting on two more paydays from the rest of the trilogy.
Banning the Telegraph was foolish. The press isn’t going to forgive that easily.