A Landing on the Sun: A Novel

Overview

From the bestselling author of Headlong and Spies, "an unconditional triumph" (The Washington Post Book World)

For fifteen years, ever since the taciturn civil servant Summerchild fell to his death from a window in the Admiralty, there have been rumors.

So Brian Jessel, a young member of the Cabinet Office, is diverted from his routine work and asked to prepare an internal report. Slowly, from the archives in the Cabinet Office Registry, Jessel...

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Overview

From the bestselling author of Headlong and Spies, "an unconditional triumph" (The Washington Post Book World)

For fifteen years, ever since the taciturn civil servant Summerchild fell to his death from a window in the Admiralty, there have been rumors.

So Brian Jessel, a young member of the Cabinet Office, is diverted from his routine work and asked to prepare an internal report. Slowly, from the archives in the Cabinet Office Registry, Jessel begins to reconstruct Summerchild’s last months. It begins to emerge that, at a time when America had just put men on the moon, the British were involved in an even bolder project, and that Summerchild was investigating a phenomenon as common as sunlight, but as powerful and dangerous as any of the forces that modern science has known.

The secret world into which Brian Jessel stumbles turns out to be even more extraordinary than his department had feared.

From the author of the acclaimed novel The Trick of It and the creator of the stage and screen hit Noises Off comes a bestselling novel that buffets notion that love is supposed to make us happy.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"An elegance and cunning reminiscent of Henry James, and Mr. Frayn's most artful creation so far." —The New York Times Book Review
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Frayn, a hit British dramatist ( Noises Off ) and comic novelist ( The Trick of It ) has created a tender civil service comedy of the kind that only an Englishman could bring off. The almost anonymous narrator, a basically dry-as- dust denizen of Whitehall, is charged with investigating the mysterious demise of a colleague, Stephen Summerchild, who had fallen to his death from high in the Admiralty offices years before. Bit by bit, through old files, photographs and a cache of uproarious tapes, he pieces together the strangest romance: that of Summerchild and a Russian-born Oxford philosophy don who had been summoned, in a moment of government madness, to investigate the nature of happiness. Amid much beautifully spoofed academic chatter, the two find a profound attraction and create a literal love nest in a tiny room high under the government eaves. Meanwhile the narrator so enters into their ridiculous but poignant relationship that he almost, but not quite, breaks loose of his own fusty ways; and he does learn why Summerchild fell. Frayn writes with great wit, a haunting sense of the atmosphere and texture of quiet London lives and places, and a profound knowledge of the official heart. This is a masterly comic performance with a hint of rue. (Feb.)
Library Journal
After a slow start, Frayn's story-within-a-story technique finally takes off. As the novel opens, British Civil Servant Brian Jessel is asked to investigate the mysterious death of former employee Summerchild. Although 15 years in the past, this death appears to be an embarrassment within the Whitehall establishment. But no one knows why. What had Summerchild been working on and with whom was he working? Jessel immerses himself completely in the project. The ludicrous nature of Summerchild's situation is best summed up by the narrator: ``Yes, better they our enemies should see the plans for a nuclear submarine than this!'' Frayn's poke at the foibles of bureaucracy will appeal to devotees of satirical fiction. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 10/1/91.-- Patricia C. Heaney, Nassau Community Coll. Lib., Garden City, N.Y.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312421908
  • Publisher: Picador
  • Publication date: 12/1/2003
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 1,299,346
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael Frayn is the author of eleven novels, including the bestselling Headlong and Spies. He has also written thirteen plays, among them Noises Off and Copenhagen, which won three Tony Awards in l999. He lives in London.

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