Authors: Linda Svendsen
ALSO BY LINDA SVENDSEN
At the End of the Day: The Sue Rodriguez Story
(with Brian McKeown)
(with Brian McKeown)
PUBLISHED BY RANDOM HOUSE CANADA
© 2012 Linda Svendsen
All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions.
No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer, who may quote brief passages in a review. Published in 2012 by Random House Canada, a division of Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto. Distributed in Canada by Random House of Canada Limited.
Random House Canada and colophon are registered trademarks.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
LIBRARY AND ARCHIVES CANADA CATALOGUING IN PUBLICATION
Sussex Drive : a novel / Linda Svendsen.
87 2012 C813′.54 C2012-902058-3
Cover images: Kris Seraphin / Millennium Images, UK; © Chris Hellier/CORBIS;
; Grant Faint/ Getty Images
For my big bro, Marc
and in honour of my grandparents
Major Louis Olaf Svendsen
9th Queen’s Own Royal Lancers, South African War
CAF, 50th Battalion, Calgary, WWI
Special services, WWII
Alice Constance Moore
Suffragette and Communist
A queen is always pregnant with her country.
The most ephemeral thing at Rideau Hall
is the governor general; all the rest is history.
MME. GABRIELLE LÉGER
Viceregal consort of Canada, 1974–1979
ND TONIGHT IT WAS HER TURN
. Becky couldn’t sleep. It could have been the vise of heat; it could have been the gastrointestinal impact of the kebabs, wrapped in red leaf “Liberal” lettuce ripped from Margaret Trudeau’s vegetable patch, served at the barbecue for Pakistan’s ambassador; it could have been Greg’s freakish snore, akin to a geriatric squirrel’s with apnea. But it was, of course, her mind, livelier, more frenetic than Greg’s BlackBerry farting beside him on the nightstand.
Because, let’s face it, the financial news was beyond grim. The debacle of Bear Stearns in the spring. The bankruptcy of IndyMac. Horrifying murmurs from the EU, including whispers from the Swiss. President Bush had just signed the Housing and Economic Recovery Act, guaranteeing billions in new thirty-year fixed-rate mortgages for sub-prime borrowers (if lenders would only graciously write down principal loan balances, thank you very much).
Even their Canadian banks, the busy, pursed-lip, tightassed beavers of the global monetary team, were exposed domestically and abroad. Becky’s father, Glenn, pugnacious, rattling around after his daily golf game on the tundra, texted her often to ask WTF her husband, the Prime Minister, otherwise known as Greg, was doing about this.
Her answer was: lots. They were on staycation at the summer residence pretending to boycott the Olympics in Beijing. Greg’s mornings were overscheduled with conference calls, financial briefings, tête-à-têtes with ministers and deputies in Finance and Foreign Affairs and International Trade, and, of course, with the Cabal of Corporate Executives, the governor of the Bank of Canada, and the IMF.
Because there was an ongoing problem with delicatessen meat, tainted and so forth, he dialogued daily with the Minister of Health, and Becky had stopped serving Black Forest ham sandwiches on family picnics for fear of listeriosis—or as Doc, Greg’s Director of Communications, called it, hysteriosis.
These closest PMO cronies were bunkered nearby in rustic cottages. Since the Harrington Lake house, or la mayson de Lac Mousey, depending on your official linguistic bent, was only a fifteen-minute trip from downtown Ottawa, Greg could just as easily have been sitting in his capaciously gloomy digs at the Langevin Block chez House of Parliament. He hadn’t once been swimming with the boys, or thrown a hairless leg over a mountain bike (or her, for that matter), or even cast his eyes or ears upon his gospel rock opera, a project he turned to in the sweltering summer the way
other husbands liked to tear down the back porch and build a deck or thrust a fresh tree house into the parched purview of their bored kids.
And, after these meetings, Greg was icily quiet. The taciturn pattern. Becky dubbed it Brief and Brood, akin to the yin and the yang of Grip and Grin. Then he was back working the phone after supper, which was sometimes a social occasion with visiting pols or their old best buddies from Yukon (“The Northwest really wants in!”), and staying up late, stewing, or secretly gleaning details about the Democratic race down south, such as what poop of his own the priapic Big Dog had stepped into. All this while she sat unperturbed in bed updating her Day-timer—planning the children’s fall schedules, which included soccer, violin and an internship for their daughter, Martha, on her eleventh-hour gap year, and Becky’s own agenda involving co-chairing the ArtsCAN! (a.k.a. ArtSCAM! according to Doc) fundraiser, the Gory Horror at the GG’s on Halloween and the caucus Christmas party—so that the security folks could coordinate and execute.