Mendel's Dwarf - UK reviews
From The Times:
"The internationally famous geneticist Dr Benedict Lambert has made it his life's work to identify the gene which causes the mutation achondroplasia - dwarfism. What makes this all the more remarkable is that Lambert is himself a victim of this error in the genetic code...a brilliant scientific mind trapped in a deformed and stunted body.
"Simon Mawer's Mendel's Dwarf is a gripping, life and death exploration of the dilemma (of modern genetics), worked out with painful precision in the novel's intricate and flawless plot.
"Alongside Lambert's own story Mawer unfolds a parallel one,
equally poignant in its loneliness and disappointment - that of Gregor
Mendel, the father of genetics. . . In Mawer's ingenious tale, Benedict's
life and that of Mendel criss-cross and interweave, heightening the
reader's understanding of both men's minds and of the intricate beauty
of fundamental genetics. It is a tribute to the artistry of Mendel's
Dwarf that they denouement if at once brutally unexpected and yet
at the same time all-too predictable."
From Good Housekeeping (UK):
". . .this tour de force by Simon Mawer. . . told through Lambert's
sardonic voice. . . is a dazzling exposition of ideas - about the
power, fallibility and the abuse of science, the cruelty of nature
and the search for perfection. . . We are treated to explosive asides
concerning eugenics, the problems posed by natural selection, the
nature of fate, the ethics of abortion. . . But Mawer's triumph is
his central character - brilliant, angry, funny and tragic, drawn
with compassion but never pity. Lambert's tone is ironic, but underneath
he's as vulnerable as anyone else. And piercing the layers if a powerful,
achingly told love story."
From the Sunday Telegraph:
". . .Simon Mawer's important new novel. . . takes us into the
quagmire of this new science. It is, on the one hand, a beginner's
handbook to genetics, with a dwarf as a guide. But the guides constant
pain imbues the book with an extraordinary sense of humanity. . .
The questions the books raises are the questions we and our children
have to face. For this particular erstwhile Catholic schoolboy, it
re-awakened the need for help from a God."
From the Daily Telegraph:
"This is a rare read: a scientifically informed, passionately
intelligent novel which is also deeply moving."
From the Independent on Sunday:
". . .this dark, funny, bitter. . .novel. . . pock-marked with rhetorical questions and games between the narrator and his audience. . . told with the blackest, driest humour, and with irony into the bargain bucket. . . will make you feel uncomfortable, because Benedict Lambert is a complicated human being who provokes sympathy, but laughs in its face. He is ferociously witty. . .and is both an emotional and physical victim of his disability. Mawer has created a character we feel for deeply, but who is also very difficult, angry, stubborn and nasty at times. Real, in other words.
"Mendel's Dwarf presents the ethical dilemmas of modern genetic
research in a love story that lurches from sharp humour to jaw-dropping
sadness and back again in pages. True, there is a lot of science to
get through - but the reader seems to acquire knowledge by accident,
thanks to Mawer's simplicity and wit. I picked this book up on the
beach and got through it without stopping. It is a marvellous read."
The Paperback edition:
From The Times:
Armchair science is such a common pastime of the literati that it
is a relief to discover a novelist with more than a dilettante's knowledge
of his subject. Mawer is a zoology graduate and his story of Benedict
Lambert - geneticist and dwarf - uses genetics as part of a debate
about eugenics, rather than as trendy intellectual trappings. A serious
novel shot through with laughter, it is also a love story and biographical
portrait. This is an impressive work in both style and substance.
the UK Abacus paperback jacket