The Room And The Chair

Lorraine Adams

Published: 5 May 2011
Paperback, B Format
129x198mm, 336 pages
ISBN: 9781846272387


A jet aircraft falls straight out of the sky into an island park in the heart of Washington, DC. But noone seems to have noticed. Well, almost noone ... At the capital's paper, the staff are in a frenzy, and the news, and ambition, can blind. In Washington's other power centre, Will queasily watches videos of a beheading from Falluja while lamenting the loss of his best double-agent, eliminated by the Iranian authorities whose nuclear intentions he was reporting. But that agent, Hoseyn, might yet provide the missing pieces that will permit the jigsaw to be completed from beyond his own death ...

About the author

Image of Lorraine Adams

Lorraine Adams was educated at Princeton and at Columbia University. She won a Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting and was a staff writer for the Washington Post for eleven years. She lives in New York City, and Harbor (Portobello, 2006) was her first novel. More about the author


‘A thriller with brains, Adams' second novel reads like Top Gun meets All the President's Men



‘Adams has an eye for topography, not just on the grand scale, as in an Arcadian journey south in Iran, but in the precise allocation of floorspace within the newsroom’ James Buchan

‘Adams writes with precision and empathy of lives marginalized or discounted by the ambitions of superiors, by institutional imperatives and global ideologies. She understands the tragic scale of this vast struggle, and that every day, we are, all of us, more vulnerable and less valuable, and closer to being counted as casualties of one kind or another. This book tallies that cost and does so in utterly human terms.’ David Simon, creator and writer of THE WIRE

‘Adams's poetic language takes a plot line that has all the requisites of the Washington novel and methodically strips them down. As in the best of Le Carré, this is a work in which nothing is what it seems ... brilliant and innovative’

‘Adopting the propulsion and framework of an intricately plotted political thriller, The Room and the Chair mercilessly critiques our addiction to narratives of Western exceptionalism even as it compels us to turn its pages.’

‘An ambitious novel of military intrigue and newspaper cunning [and] a dissection of the shadowy worlds of espionage, counter-terrorism and journalism . . . [offers] profound insights into how newspapers actually operate and stretches of dialogue that are as spare and pitch-perfect as anything written by Hemingway or Waugh.’

‘An ejection-seat view of the war on terror in the media age, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Lorraine Adams's page-turner manoeuvres between cockpit and newsroom, the Potomac and the Panjshir Valley.’

‘An investigative journalist at the Washington Post for 11 years, Ms. Adams still sees herself as a reporter. But now she funnels the information she gathers into her novels, which hinge on complex issues such as terrorism, secret military programs and the media's failure to expose government wrongdoing .’

‘Incisive, lyrical . . . A Syriana-type yarn that tracks a dozen linked characters and shifts from the United States to the Islamic world and back again . . . Like Harbor, this new novel is filled with memorable set pieces and remarkable dialogue. Adams is particularly good at capturing the rivalries, power struggles and pecking order in the newsroom, a milieu she knows intimately. . . . As Adams demonstrated in her first novel, she also has a gift for imagining subcultures beyond her immediate ken. With perfect pitch, she evokes the shadow world of intelligence operatives, as well as the macho banter and bravado of fighter pilots. . . A wild and often fascinating ride.’

‘Lorraine Adams clearly has a knack for high-intensity, visceral openings ... [In The Room and the Chair] we follow the chaotic, often searingly accurate, newsroom politics, with its deleterious effects on news-making, and the human fallout from the many facets of America's endless war, stretching from Iran to Afghanistan.’ Siobhan Murphy

‘Lorraine Adams is a singular and important American writer. The Room and the Chair establishes this without question: It is remarkable for its ambitions and its achievements. It encompasses the broadest outlines of our world’

‘One of the most thrilling literary novels I've read in years. Adams seems to have it all - a journalist's sharp eye, a poet's ear, a cynic's wisdom and a story-teller's flourish. A touch of DeLillo here, a bit of Elmore Leonard there, some echoes of Martha Gellhorn, but ultimately Adams has a voice all her own. This is a tough, fast and beautiful read’ Colum McCann

‘Penetrating . . . Provocative . . . There is the familiar pleasure of reading a really good novel, and then there is the greater thrill of reading a novel both topical and important in that way that usually only journalism gets to be. Adams's The Room and the Chair is suspenseful and transporting-fine, many good novels are-but it is also that rarer thing: part of the conversation about our seemingly endless War on Terror... We turn to journalists to expose skullduggery at the White House, the CIA, and the Department of Defense . . . [But] there is an even greater value to Adams' spidery, upsetting novel because she forces us to question our trust in Woodward et al., as well as in those Brooks Brothers assassins at Langley. . .. Adams spent 11 years on staff at The Washington Post and she convincingly conveys the crosscurrents of rivalry, pride, and (very occasionally) empathy that prevail in that pressurized atmosphere. . . The varied settings, intricate plot, and deep cast of characters suggests a cross between Syriana and the fifth season of The Wire-but Adams' novel is subtler than both. And more deeply felt. Through a roving, omniscient point of view, Adams manages to convey the all-too-human fears and desires of even the more minor players in her drama. This is the great advantage of fiction: It accommodates, more naturally than journalism, the dimension of feeling behind current events. . . . Adams is a limber and inventive stylist, capable of great music and rhythm. [An] exceptional novel.’

‘There are numerous twists and the dialogue is sharp and witty, with each character meticulously drawn. As military and intelligence figures get involved, clouding the truth, the plot moves from Washington to Dubai to Iran and Afghanistan in this intelligent novel about the flaws of America's governing elite’

‘With Harbor, Adams showed herself to be unafraid of the complexities and uncertainties that newspapers-like pundits and politicians-sometimes prefer to ignore when the conversation turns to terrorism. Now, in her sinuous and intricately plotted second novel, The Room and the Chair, Adams has enlarged her cast and broadened her scope to give us a fiercely intelligent political thriller set, by turns, in Washington, Iraq, Dubai, and Afghanistan in the wake of 9/11... The Room and Chair is a breed apart: a novel that combines the meticulous reportage of Bernstein and Woodward's All the President's Men with the spellbinding poetry and creepy political intrigue of Robert Penn Warren's All the King's Men. Indeed, Adams writes such lovely sentences that you must remind yourself, again and again, just how hard won her powers of perception are... The novel unfolds at breakneck speed, in the best possible sense of that hackneyed expression. Adams seeks out her characters-the jettisoned pilot, the embittered newspaperman whom glory has eluded, the ruthless has-been wife of that celebrated journalist, the spook-in their innermost recesses, even as she reveals the elusive ties that bind them together. You won't find better descriptive writing. Adams evokes the treacherous, starkly beautiful terrain of war-torn Afghanistan and the lurid glitter of Dubai with the dexterity of a champion foreign correspondent channeling Bruce Chatwin. But Adams's real genius resides in her ability to show at close hand how a dozen-odd, tenuously linked lives play out across the globe. Then, too, there is her vivisection of life inside the newsroom - "The Room" - of a Washington paper: nothing less than a minor miracle of social anthropology.Adams's unapologetically lush syntax [is] reminiscent of the exquisite John Banville, another journalist-turned-novelist... At first blush, The Room and the Chair presents itself as the consummate Washington insider's novel, if only because Adams's sly, frequently riotous thumbnail sketches allow insiders to play the name game. Is that Bob Woodward? Is that Dick Cheney? But it would be a shame to lose sight of the novel's deep implications for life in our time. What those implications are depends, naturally, on the reader. National security, military incompetence, Old Washington in its twilight hour: it's all here. Time was when the Washington novel-a genre perfected by stylish masterminds such as Gore Vidal and Ward Just, among others-luxuriated in its provincialism, in the very Beltway isolationist culture that Adams captures in all its grandeur and grandiosity, and exposes in all its obsolescence and breathtaking indifference.... Adams doesn't disappoint: this novel belongs equally to the realms of artful entertainment and incisive social commentary.With The Room and the Chair, Lorraine Adams has gone a long way toward reviving a moribund genre. And if her stunning portrayal of our uneasy days sounds stranger than fiction, well, that's exactly the point.’

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