Review Round Up: The Cockroach by Ian McEwan

Love London Love Culture rounds up the reviews for Ian McEwan’s political satire.

New Statesman: “The Cockroach seems to belong more squarely in the realm of fantasy or magic realism. But McEwan still finds room, amid all the Hansard send-ups and diplomatic silliness, to allude to more troubling physical-philosophical quandaries, while positing an alternative history of economic thought that culminates in a wayward version of our present.”

The Spectator: “It was a mistake to engage with The Metamorphosis, however, because Kafka’s engine just can’t be run in reverse. But even without that, McEwan doesn’t seem to be quite up to speed on political minutiae. When so much of the detail, from parliamentary pairing arrangements to the conventional seating in cabinet, is awry, belief starts to fail. And if the novelist is asking his reader to believe one huge impossible thing, it’s reckless to pile minor implausibilities on top.”

The Guardian: “As satire, it may cheer and invigorate the admittedly sizable constituency that regards Brexit as being no less insane an idea than unilaterally reversing the laws of economics, and one that could plausibly have been hatched by a cabal of nefarious, murderous, lie‑spewing human cockroaches. But that falls into the heat rather than light department. All McEwan’s fluency is here, and much of his wit (though broad comedy has never been the centre of his talent) – but, like Jim Sams or Gregor Samsa, the end result is neither one thing nor the other.”

Evening Standard: “McEwan has constructed a fable here to please all those who find it incomprehensible that anyone could support Brexit. For all his glorious fluency, he can’t empathise with such people himself. So he has designated them cockroaches.”

The Times: “Ian McEwan isn’t a fan of Brexit. He believes that it is “a national tragedy”, and in his most recent novel Machines Like Me he imagines a counterfactual version of the 1980s in which Tony Benn as prime minister takes Britain out of the EU, but refuses to hold another referendum because “only the Third Reich and other tyrannies decided policy by plebiscites”.”

The Telegraph: ** “It takes a certain kind of confidence to rework a literary masterpiece.”

The FT: “This is the McEwan we expect; playful, inventive and clever. The descriptions of physical transformation are unsurprisingly excellent though he is not the first author to riff on Kafka’s classic. But as soon as he returns to the pure politics, the intelligence gives way to unfiltered and uninquisitive rage.”

The Cockroach is available to buy now.

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