This post will be my final thoughts on House of Cards by Michael Dobbs. I had a few more posts planned, but I ended up finishing the book ahead of schedule. So I’m going to wrap it up now.
I also want to avoid spoiling what happens in the later chapters. It was a shock to me, and I wouldn’t want to deny a reader the experience of reading the ending for themselves.
So, what do I think of the book as a whole? I would recommend it. I think that it’s a thrilling, fast-paced story that is both classic and somehow timeless. Its setting is clear, England in the late 1980’s. Still, its themes ring true today.
Still, the book isn’t without its flaws. There’s a very subtle sexism against Mattie and Penny, the two prominent female characters. One could argue that it’s a portrayal of the sexism that’s pervasive in the boys’ club of politics. However, it’s not clear that it’s the case. It falls slightly short of the author’s intention in this regard.
One particularly subtle way is the way that characters are addressed. I mentioned this in a previous post but put a pin in it until now. Once I started paying attention, I saw this EVERYWHERE. In House of Cards, most male characters’ last names are used. Francis Urquhart is Urquhart. Roger O’Neill is O’Neill. Benjamen Landless is Landless. But Mattie Sorin is Mattie, and Penny Guy is Penny. It’s a subtle way to show professionality or familiarity. There’s an implicit “Mr.”, but no implicit “Ms”. Even if there was one, there’s a difference between “Mr. Urquhart” and “Ms. Mattie”. It’s something that implies that the men get a formality that the women don’t. I’m not sure if it’s on purpose, it’s not even something that you’d notice without looking for it.
I don’t want to excuse the sexism if it’s a product of the author’s bias. I also don’t want to ignore it and only focus on the parts that I really liked. And there were a lot of parts that I liked.
It’s a great story. It had its slower parts, but it’s still an unpredictable story that takes you on a ride the whole time. You never know where it’s going to go, but it always makes sense. Despite its flaws, I think that House of Cards is worth picking up if you love a suspenseful political thriller. I had a great time reading it.