Tuesday 10 January 2023

Book Review: The Cockroach By Ian McEwan, narrated by Bill Nighy

The Cockroach

The Cockroach by Ian McEwan
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

When I started reading this novella from Ian McEwan I was reminded of the classic The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka, but very quickly the notion of a homage was dispelled and we are into the realm of political satire. 

****SPOLIER ALERT****Jim Sams, UK PM has been transformed into a cockroach yet, but he is still PM, in modern day Britain but not quite as we know it, although everything sounds familiar. Reversalism rules, reverse-flow economics is the norm and the traditional money markets preferred by the 'Clockwisers' are no longer in power, now people have to shop to afford to buy their jobs. The previous PM in order to placate the Reversalist wing of the Tory Party had called a Referendum on reversing the money flow. The old and the poor swayed the vote and faced with "Turn the Money Around" upswell he 'resigned immediately and was never heard of again' .

James Sams a clockwiser had emerged as a compromise candidate now had to guide a Reversalist economy in a Clockwise world. ' we will deliver Reversalism for the purpose of uniting and re-energising our great country....by 2050... the UK will be the greatest and most prosperous economy in Europe....we will move swiftly to accelerate and extend our trade deals beyond St Kitts and Nevis.... '
Any Brit will hear resounding in her ears echoes of the misjudged Cameron EU Referendum .

James wrestles with his first Tweets, tries to get the US President to adopt Reversalism, there's a fatal fishing dispute with the French, a leak and a Foreign Secretary called Benedict that needs dealing with. A false story is planted by a female colleague with the media to discredit and shame the Foreign Secretary who then has to resign and goes off to lead the rebels.

With the ultimate passing of the Reversalism Bill, James in his speech says "we have come to know the preconditions for such human ruin. War and global warming certainly and, in peacetime, immoveable hierarchies, concentrations of wealth, deep superstition, rumour, division, distrust of science, of intellect, of strangers and of social cooperation."

One can't but feel McEwan enjoyed writing this book, and from a reader's perspective it is short, speedy read which occasional bring sly smiles to one's face, but is it a great piece of creative writing?, I felt McEwan struggled to maintain his PM as cockroach character and Sams reverted to the PM as human in this reader's mind for large parts of this book. Maybe it is a book that inevitably had to be written. Could it have been written with the same of better effect without the cockroach transformation? That I feel that could have been a better book. Sadly, not one of McEwan's better books - for me an interesting idea that didn't quite work.

I listened to the audio version admirably read by Bill Nighy.

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