Title: Being Alert! by Charlie Laidlaw
Published by: Independently Published
Publication date: 13th August 2020
Being Alert! begins in January 2020 as the British prime minister, Winston Spragg, first learns about a new illness that seems to be centred in a city in China that nobody has heard of.
Following in a long tradition of British satire, the book populates Downing Street and Whitehall with an inept prime minister presiding over a dysfunctional government as it deals with an existential threat that rapidly becomes a national crisis.
Like satires before it, the book uses humour to paint an uncomfortable picture of a government seemingly as concerned about justifying itself as working to protect the country.
A huge thank you to the author for sending me a copy of this book for review!
Being Alert! uses satire to explore how the UK Government has handled the COVID-19 pandemic since January 2020. Despite the use of humour, it’s actually quite thought-provoking and definitely worth a read, whether you support the government or not.
The story stays true to the timeline of COVID-19 and the government’s response to it including lockdown, the PPE shortage and their confusing briefings. Alongside this, statistics including the number of confirmed cases and the number of deaths are scattered throughout. I thought this was excellent and really highlighted how all the government’s decisions, or lack thereof, failed to stop the rapidly rising cases and death toll. While the government thinks they can congratulate themselves on their handling of this crisis, Being Alert! paints a different picture.
A lot of this story is focused on how the government is dealing with the pandemic behind the scenes and whether they ever really had a proper plan in place. Unfortunately, it was easy to imagine our current Prime Minister being exactly like the inept Winston Spragg, who was woefully unprepared for this pandemic and completely clueless as to the reality of the situation.
One thing I had a good laugh at was the ministers using earpieces in the daily briefings and having appropriate answers fed to them, but still managing to make a mess of it. In reality, this was exactly what I was thinking when I was watching the briefings – that’s how terrible they were. Also, at the heart of the government, there was one man who seemed to be pulling all the strings and even though I disliked him very much, he was an essential character as it was easy to imagine the government falling apart without him. The same can be said for the real government and it’s actually rather shocking how true this is.
With good days few and far between now, I appreciated the use of humour in Being Alert! and had a good laugh at how the government were portrayed. While I don’t pick up satire very often, I really enjoyed this and I’d definitely recommend it.