The Cockroach, by Ian McEwan book cover
Book reviews

The Cockroach, by Ian McEwan

Since when might a vacuum cleaner, and a cat, be enough to scare a world leader? British Prime Minister Jim Sams is terrified of both. Honestly, you think he would have bigger fish to fry. Steering his country through the then exit process from the European Union would surely be more frightening than the sight of a domestic appliance and a pet animal.

But the hapless Sams, along with his entire cabinet, have somehow been transformed into cockroaches, in The Cockroach (published by Penguin Books Australia, 2019), the seventeenth novel of British writer Ian McEwan. Sams is faced with making the perilous journey from his private suite at Downing Street to the cabinet room, while steering clear of the cat and the vacuum cleaner, both deathly dangerous for a cockroach.

To make matters worse, Sams and his colleagues, are in the middle of implementing a controversial monetary policy known as Reversalism. Reversalism is possibly the sort of economic plan a bunch of cockroaches might attempt to introduce. In short the arrangement would see employees pay their bosses to work for them, but on the other hand will be recompensed for their consumption.

It’s worth putting the magnifying glass to this idea. If you worked one hour a week, but consumed like there was no tomorrow, does that mean you would come out ahead? By this point I probably don’t need to tell you The Cockroach is satire, and is essentially McEwan’s opinion of the Brexit process, something he obviously took a dim view of, along with many others.

More novella than novel though, with the page count coming in at a mere ninety-nine, here is a story that will be a source of wry amusement to anyone, regardless of their understanding of the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union, or British politics for that matter.