I've read all of Tim Pear's books and this one does not disappoint, although it is very different to his previous novels. John and his brother Greg run a successful potato processing and distribution business. Life has been good to them in recent years, but John has persuaded Greg to branch out into genetically-modified produce and has set up trials in Venezuela. Despite the best of intentions the trials have gone terribly wrong and two people have died.
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.
on 30 April 2013
I have been a staunch admirer of Tim Pears's writing ever since I bought a second-hand copy of his first novel, In the Place of Fallen Leaves. He has yet to disappoint, and his novels and characters linger on in the reader's mind long after the final page has been read. He is not afraid to take risks, and in Wake Up he gives us, as narrator, a rather pathetic man forced to confront his past. John Sharpe has, along with his brother, founded one of Britain's largest potato suppliers and has become involved in developing edible plant vaccines: however, two people have died during the initial trials and we accompany Sharpe as he drives incessantly up and down his local ring road, putting off the moment when he will have to break the sorry news to his brother. Another risk which Pears takes is to make Sharpe an unreliable narrator, but he pulls this off with aplomb, leaving the reader a tad unsettled as to what is true and what isn't, even leading this reader to wonder whether Sharpe's at times annoyingly gushing descriptions of his baby son are deliberately overdone. A superbly written novel that gives us a glimpse into an all too plausible and unpleasant future.