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A Landing on the Sun by Michael Frayn
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A Landing on the Sun (edition 2000)

by Michael Frayn

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174668,238 (3.47)3
Member:Pitoucat
Title:A Landing on the Sun
Authors:Michael Frayn
Info:Faber & faber (2000), Paperback, 259 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:Novel

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A Landing on the Sun by Michael Frayn

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This is a book that has stayed with me long after I first read it. There is a beauty to the prose, a gentleness. It is my favourite of Frayn's books. ( )
  missizicks | Apr 1, 2013 |
A poignant and original exploration of how humans strive and inevitably fail to be happy. ( )
  dazzyj | Dec 29, 2012 |
I'm not sure why I picked this up, but it was a good psychological thriller, the characters were intriguing and waiting to find out what happened to the main characters wife was painful. I would like to see this made into a movie. ( )
  chrystal | Dec 23, 2010 |
I was a fan of Frayn's based on previous work of his I had encountered - the novel 'Headlong' and the play 'Copenhagen' so I was looking forward to reading 'A Landing on the Sun'.

What a disappointing book! I could handle the different attempts at conveying the narrative - transcripts of discussions 15 years past, official documents, tape recorded conversations, the narrator feeling that he is 'inhabited' by the people he is investigating - but the problem is, I didn't care. I didn't care about the narrator: a civil servant with a complicated domestic life. I didn't care about the characters he was investigating - a civil servant and a philosopher who worked together 15 years ago before the civil servant died in mysterious circumstance. This book felt very distanced and jumbled, not what I expected from Frayn at all. ( )
  ForrestFamily | Mar 22, 2006 |
I enjoyed it. It is different: it seems to start out as a spoof on bureaucrats and academics, but then transforms itself into something more poignant. Jessel is British bureaucrat charged with reviewing the files of a Stephen Summerchild who died 20 years earlier in a fall from an office window, to determine whether there were any security implications that need to "managed". Summerchild worked in a obscure section called the "Strategy Unit", which Jessel discovers was a think-tank set up by the returned Labour government in the early 70s, supposedly charged with thinking big thoughts about the Quality of Life. In fact, it turns out that the unit consisted solely of Jessel and a professor of philosophy from Oxford, Dr.Elizabeth Serafin. Serafin never really understands her mandate, and Summerchild sees his as fencing this outsider to ensure that the work of the Unit does not interfere with good governance by the bureaucrats. Jessel discovers and deduces all of this on the basis of some dusty files that he discovers, but more importantly through his discovery of a horde of cassette tapes on which Summerchild and Serafin had recorded their disquisitions into the meaning of happiness and joy and the quality of life. There are some good send-ups here of the academic, hair-splitting style, as well as a fine understanding by Frayn of the values and appropriate structure of a good government memo! Jessel, who knew Summerchild as a youngster and was infatuated with his daughter, unravels the story of how Serafin and Summerchild became lovers, working and then essentially living together in the small garret office that they had been given. The story bends over to the absurd, but traces the fine line of credibility when one thinks of the stereotypical eccentricity of English bureaucrats, and the very real possibility of people virtually dropping out of sight in a large bureaucracy.

As Jessel explores the story more deeply, he is at first appalled with Summerchild letting slip his professional approach and attitudes, but he comes to identify more and more with Summerchild, entering into his mind, understanding what he is thinking and where he is going with his thoughts and actions. There is a light irony throughout the story, but at the same time a growing intimacy with Summerchild and Serafin as we watch them moving towards the doom that we know is Summerchild's death. It is the old story, which Summerchild himself recognizes on looking back: a series of small steps, each one of which seemed reasonable and acceptable in and of itself, but which cumulatively lead to a situation that would have seemed absurd from the outset.
  John | Nov 29, 2005 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0312421907, Paperback)

From the bestselling author of Headlong and Spies, "an unconditional triumph" (The Washington Post Book World)

For fifteen years, ever since the taciturn civil servant Summerchild fell to his death from a window in the Admiralty, there have been rumors.

So Brian Jessel, a young member of the Cabinet Office, is diverted from his routine work and asked to prepare an internal report. Slowly, from the archives in the Cabinet Office Registry, Jessel begins to reconstruct Summerchild’s last months. It begins to emerge that, at a time when America had just put men on the moon, the British were involved in an even bolder project, and that Summerchild was investigating a phenomenon as common as sunlight, but as powerful and dangerous as any of the forces that modern science has known.

The secret world into which Brian Jessel stumbles turns out to be even more extraordinary than his department had feared.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:04:36 -0400)

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