A distant relative of the first geneticist, pea-pollinating Gregor Mendel, Ben has long used libraries as a refuge, and education as a way out (if not up). Still in his 20s, he's determined to identify the gene that made him "one of nature's practical jokes." Offered a post at the Royal Institute for Genetics, he immediately puts achondroplasia on the table. The director may well consider research into dwarfdom commercially unviable, but Ben knows better. His height will finally be of help: "There are lots of organizations interested," he insists. "The Little People of America, groups like that. When they see me coming they reach for their covenant forms."
Mawer interleaves Ben's research with the story of his affair (a "menage à une et demi") with the Institute's ill-fated assistant librarian, Jeane Piercey: "Mousy, of course. I feel that all librarians ought to be mousy. It should be a necessary (but not sufficient) qualification for the job. Mousy? Agouti? What, I wonder, is its genetic control? Perhaps it is tightly linked to the gene for tidiness." Mawer also juxtaposes Ben's passion with that of his legume-obsessed ancestor. Mendel, it turns out, pined for Frau Rotway, a married woman in the inevitable company of her own achondroplastic, a dachshund.
Mendel's Dwarf wears its considerable learning lightly--the author is a biologist--and readers will be alternately moved, charmed, and shocked by Ben's "astringent kiss of irony." Because the hero makes several difficult choices in the course of this fine novel, we admire his bravery, along with his resilience, at every turn. For Ben, the smallest gesture can become the largest (nods being "big absurd things, my head being about the same size as my body. You can't miss them. They are the gestural equivalent of screaming"). And alas, such acts are often poignantly beyond Ben's grasp: "I wanted to put my arm around her, of course, to bring her that fragile thing that we call comfort. But of course I couldn't reach." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Amazing book! I finished reading it a week ago and I can't stop thinking about it, it is one of the best books I've read in a while.Published 24 days ago by Noreen Snead
Sharp, incisive, no feel-good or sentimentality, good description of persons. Where applicable, on my level, scientifically impeccable.Published 1 month ago by Nils Gustaf Lindgren
But a fascinating read, I would not recommend it to the faint of heart but once you are into it, it's hard to put down.Published 2 months ago by Venona
Fascinating perspective on Mendel and his work, blended with a humorous and complex current day character, a dwarf. Poses genetic ethical choices and current research. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Janice Corson
As with all Simon Mawer books, this story has been exceptionally well researched and sometimes the facts overcome the fun. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Maggie Garside
I liked it a lot. Interesting plot, graphic and unexpected at times. Informative and amusing, I can definitely recommend itPublished 12 months ago by Ivan Krsul
enjoyed this book,funny, serious, romance,history has it all.Little frustrating in parts but eventually works out well. Read morePublished 13 months ago by Marnie r
Excellent writing, interesting story line, and authentic science combine to create a novel that's particularly interesting for people interested in fiction and genetics.Published 14 months ago by Ex-Southern Belle (Denver, Colorado)
A gripping page turner that gets the science right. As somebody who majored in genetics in college and loves a good read I thoroughly enjoyed the book.Published 15 months ago by David Annis