Ian McEwan has his hits and misses, but by gum, everything he writes is memorable. It’s interesting to see him return to short fiction, since that’s where his career started. I don’t remember all the stories from , but I DO remember opening my mouth in shock a few times. He didn’t earn the nickname “Ian Macabre” for nothing. And with The Cockroach, we DEFINITELY get some wild and memorable moments.
If you read Kafka’s The Metamorphosis and thought “This, but in reverse,” you’ll be happy to hear that this is exactly what The Cockroach is: a cockroach wakes up from his usual perilous life of scurrying around and discovers that he is the British Prime Minister in the very late 2010s. The PM in question is an amalgam of a few recent individuals, but I won’t spoil what happens. Because it’s rather timely. The political satire takes awhile to get off the ground, but towards the end, there’s a rather arresting tableau with the members of the PM’s inner circle I’ve not been able to forget.
As with any Ian McEwan book, wild things happen. The ending itself is completely unhinged, which is how it should be in a McEwan book. I won’t say more, because you’ll just have to read it for yourself. But suffice it to say that a cockroach posing as a Prime Minister, well…there’s much fodder there for both high- and lowbrow humor, and McEwan doesn’t throw away his shot.