Wake Up Paperback – 7 Jul 2003
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There is a grubby, Lawrencean, earthiness about Wake Up, Tim Pears' fourth novel. Rotting vegetables, mud, urine, excrement, vomit and semen jostle for space in an invective first-person narrative. The central character John Sharp is an unnerving, unpleasant but often amusing raconteur. He's the misogynistic, misanthropic Oxford-educated brains behind Spudnik, Britain's largest potato dealers. Despite his disdain for the bulk of the word's inhabitants, he has unwavering faith in a scheme to cultivate vaccines in genetically modified spuds. The book opens with John driving to work having just learnt that two people have died in dubious trials of the prototype. Uncertain about how to break the news to Greg, his brother and (brawny) business partner; he becomes mesmerised by a ring road. As he spins relentlessly around it, in a subtle but insistent echo of the nature's own cycles, he starts to unfurl a highly questionable version of his life story. By the second page John has already confessed to lying and continually retracts, denies and reworks his own version of events, leaving the reader, as the silent, omnipresent interlocutor, to decide quite how believable any part of his story is.
Potato lore permeates his monologue--even seeping into a marvellously tuberous description of the Sharp clan's physiognomy: "We were a plug-ugly Anglo-Saxon family. Yes, we were. White and skinny or white and lumpy: that was the choice our genes offered us." Progeny, human and vegetable in John's case, is Pears' overriding theme. There's a remarkable neatness here. Pears is very adept at tidy but believable contrasts: John's scientism is marked against his wife Lily's New Ageism; Lily's adventurous cooking is in turn compared to John's mother's ability to drain food of its taste, while Greg's entrepreneurial vigour is sharply contrasted with their late father's inability to get beyond running a single fruit and veg stall. These binary motifs drive the novel; making John a robust, if sometimes obnoxious, figure and giving the whole thing a pleasing cohesion. There's a slightly annoying, final twist (Frankenspud turns out to be John's second genetic monstrosity) but this inventive and actually very funny novel asks serious questions about the responsibilities, and possible dangers, of scientific "progress". --Travis Elborough --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
A fluent, provocative and unsettling story of our times by a leading British novelist -- Publishinfg News
Dark social comedy and satire with an accompanying rich sauce of sex He is a writer with purpose -- Guardian
Tim Pears is himself, and his strange and unsettling novel might help a few more of us wake up -- Independent on Sunday
Unsettling this is a satire which insidiously works into your system -- Scotland on Sunday
Very modern and provocatively written tale of a genetic engineering experiment going spectacularly wrong -- Daily Mirror
Wake Up is perfect It is utterly compelling and completely reala fine achievement' -- The Tablet
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Top Customer Reviews
The book is written in the first person from John's perspective, as he drives repetetively round their town's ring road, in a state of complete indecision - how can he tell Greg of this new development? As he drives, he remininsices on their life story, and as the book develops, we learn more and more about John's character. By the end of the book the reader is left with no illusions about John, and yet, there is a revelation waiting for us which shows how far he has gone in his quest to achieve perfect produce.
The book is quite easy to read, and the reader's interest is maintained throughout. John turns out to be a complex character with some unusual tastes. The psyche of the male is stripped bare and although the result is shocking, many men will relate to John's honesty about his inmost feelings. Whether women will like what is revealed is another matter.
I finished this book in about three days and realise that although it was in some senses an easy read, there is actually much in there to think about and it would be an excellent choice for a reading group or for the solitary reader who likes being challenged rather than comforted.
-as a female, yes I did like it-always good to get a look at the male Psyche
-was the baby truly cloned (as opposed to IVF or similar)?