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A Landing on the Sun

3.64  ·  Rating Details ·  270 Ratings  ·  35 Reviews
As a playwright and novelist, Michael Frayn has managed not only to keep comedy alive but to raise it to a slyly subversive art. The New York Times called his last novel, The Trick of It, "wonderfully satiric", while Time hailed it as "a swift little breeze of a book". His new work is more like a typhoon of comedic invention.
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published February 1st 1992 by Viking (first published 1991)
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When I read this book I could see nothing in it but the idea that you have been given this gift of life and you have to do the right thing by it. That to give up on finding love and happiness is to scorn this gift.

And yet...maybe the very opposite is true. Maybe what I should have seen is the idea that you should stay where you are, that the miserable life you know is better than the unknown dangers of the happiness and love you could choose to seek.

And yet...maybe it is simply thus: the best wh
I’ve read this as a richly layered philosophical novel that invites us to reflect deeply on the nature of quality of life, of happiness. When the protagonists start to approach this conundrum they are faced with a conceptual choice. Either they frame quality of life as a parameter that can be measured and mapped in terms of the positive and negative influences that impinge on it. Happiness then becomes „the idea of some kind of grading system for our experience, of some variable level of satisfa ...more
May 16, 2009 Manny rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's remarkably hard to describe A Landing on the Sun without giving something away, since for quite a while you don't even know what genre it belongs to. Some of my early hypotheses were a bureaucratic comedy of manners; a Kafkaesque study of alienation; a science-fiction novel; a police procedural; a parody of Wittgensteinian linguistic philosophy; and a metaphysical thriller. I really don't want to spoil things for you by saying which of these guesses, if any, turned out to be correct!

The boo
Nov 30, 2016 Anna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I resolved to read ‘A Landing on the Sun’ on the basis of Frayn’s masterfully hilarious satire on academia, The Tin Men. Although equally astutely observed, this book is entirely lacking in hilarity. It is very limited in scope yet incredibly detailed, like a miniature painted for a locket. The narrator is a civil servant named Jessel, who is asked to prepare a report on Stephen Summerchild, formerly also a civil servant, fifteen years deceased, and possessing some tangential connection to Jesse ...more
Apr 12, 2012 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I suffer from Famous Author Aversion Syndrome. I tend to avoid books by people who win prizes, get interviewed a lot, and are generally considered to be major literary talents. This is my way of avoiding disappointment. However, sometimes I dip my toe in the waters of critical acclaim and read something by an author that all the 'serious minded' folk of the Sunday heavies agree is well worth reading. In this case, I didn't regret it. A Landing on the Sun is a well-crafted novel that combines ele ...more
Dave Riese
This is not my favorite book by Frayn. Start with 'Headlong' and 'Spies'
Sep 13, 2016 Ron rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I bought this book thinking that the subject was going to be some type of spy thriller. Instead there were a lot of other absurd twists in the story. SPOILER ALERT:: The story starts with a civil servant investigating the death of a colleague over rumors that the colleague had been working on a top secret government project and had stumbled on to something that led to his death. During the investigation, it is discovered that the colleague and a philosophy professor were collaborating on the mea ...more
Mar 27, 2014 Jenny rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I gather that a TV movie was made of this book, and I imagine that was worth watching, but for me the joy of this book was in the brilliant quality of the writing and the way Frayn establishes not only his narrator's viewpoint, but indirectly the viewpoint of the others that the narrator discusses.

A civil servant is given the task of tidying up some loose ends regarding the work of another civil servant who apparently committed suicide over a decade earlier under slightly mysterious circumstanc
It's difficult to review "A Landing on the Sun" without giving something away, but I'll try. Having never heard of Michael Frayn before, I picked up this book in an used book store because I liked the cover (really).

An obscure civil servant, Stephen Summerchild, died 15 years ago by falling out from a window in the Admirality. Rumors circulate about his death - what was he working on and with whom ? Was it suicide, or was he murdered ?

I was expecting a political thriller, but I got something utt
Michael Moseley
Nov 24, 2012 Michael Moseley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club
This is an odd tale of the inner working of the 1960’s Wilson government. We are drawn in to a number of different areas of thought with this special unit set up to discover the happiness of the nation. What is the meaning of a how do you measure happiness is a great philosophical question that the civil service may have to work with. The outcome is far from typical civil service behaviour. The impact on the life of the career civil servant is hardly happiness and not one he would have seen comi ...more
I respect the art of this book, but didn't enjoy it quite as much as Headlong by the same author. Frayne spends a long time oscillating between working out and satirizing complex ideas--sometimes both at the same time. The result can be dizzying--the man is funny and brilliant. But it's not the kind of thing I want to read when I'm dead tired at night. Which is when I usually read. The characters are also pretty sad and pathetic, as I remember. I didn't find myself rooting for anyone--and I like ...more
Maria Paiz
Though I had to read half the book to really get into it, I must admit I found myself glued to it during the second half. All at once it is an investigation into a civil servant's peculiar death many years in the past; the discovery of a clandestine love affair; a present-day government worker's introspective look at his own grey, dull life; and a philosophical inquiry into the nature of happiness. I was highly impressed by the author's ability to swing between the past and the present without l ...more
Jul 21, 2016 Julie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An investigation into big philosophical concepts (what is the meaning of love? What is happiness?) wrapped up in the small world of the Whitehall Civil Service. Michael Frayn’s A Landing on the Sun isn’t the easiest of reads, but it is a moving and thought-provoking novel of ideas, and a witty and perceptive love story-cum-mystery. Brilliantly constructed and movingly told, sad and funny by turns, it is a challenging but rewarding read.
Jan 08, 2013 Amy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Gorgeous prose and technique paired with a moderately intriguing plot about a government committee tasked with studying happiness. Points off for the common trick of a cover blurb that promises the book has a Deep Dark Secret, when the reality is much more mundane (see also Little Bee by Chris Cleave).
Jan 30, 2012 Cara rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
After reading Frayn's "Headlong", which I really enjoyed, "A Landing on the Sun" was a slight disappointment. The writing style is similar in both books, but this novel is just not as compelling or witty as "Headlong." Still, there is a generous sprinkling of Frayn-style humor and social commentary.
Sep 24, 2015 Andrew rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Didn't "get" this one at all.

I ploughed on to the end, in the hope of a twist, like in one of his others that I've read - and was thoroughly disappointed.

I enjoyed the early humour, but really struggled with most of it.
Aug 08, 2013 Anne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
You know you are in safe hands with Michael Frayn - and this doesnt disappoint, even though it is far more restrained than his usual fare. The delicious subtleties of irony lend an exquisite poignancy to this doomed romance and it's exploration of what it is to be happy.
Luke Meehan
Nov 28, 2015 Luke Meehan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Achingly good. The maudlin, regimented, oddities of the British Civil Service are wonderfully wound together into a plot that is as engaging as it is unexpected. A really lovely, sad, book.
Feb 03, 2011 Jennifer rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Enjoying this...very cleverly structured and nicely written...only about 100 pages in, maybe more later.
Apr 30, 2013 Gemma rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club, 2013
It started out like a thriller, and I kind of wish it had stayed one (which is a bit of a revelation, since I don't read thrillers).

Jun 13, 2011 Courtney rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I read the first 8 chapters and pretty much gave up. Couldn't even force myself to read it for my class! Yikes.
Sep 25, 2013 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I started this book with the impression that it was a John le Carre-type spy thriller. It's NOT, but all I'll say beyond that is that it's suspenseful, absurd, sad, and utterly charming.
Lionel Denny
Sep 24, 2014 Lionel Denny rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
Interesting start, struggled a bit in the middle,but loved the second half as it all came together for me and a terrific finale.
Feb 24, 2016 Jim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorite
Michael Frayn knows how to tell a lively story. He's intelligent and witty. One of my favorite fiction writers; he's also a playwright.
Roy White
Nov 19, 2014 Roy White rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
British civil servants gone wild.Frayn is an accomplished comic writer and seems to care about his characters...I would happily trade Ian McEwan and a first-round draft choice for him.
Jan 26, 2013 Jane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Frayn is a brilliant writer who has captured the grey personalities here perfectly in a novel which at first seems to be a thriller but is ultimately about a smaller and more human entanglement.
Marie Smith
Didn't care for this book. It didn't have much of a point and wasn't interesting. Read it based on a recommendation from the book "happier at home.....", another book I didn't really care for
Jul 19, 2007 Jrobertus rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
frayn wrote one of my very favorite books, "sweet dreams" so i had high hopes. they were dashed. this book was just boring and i quit halfway through.
Brent Legault
Well-written, gourmet popcorn of a novel. The conflict that engines the story is sheer absurdity. But it is told with a Beefeater's calm. I found it soothing somehow. Like listening to BBC America.
Jun 13, 2009 Frank rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Just as the Americans were landing a man on the moon, the British were studying the essence of Happiness. This government program yielded even more powerful findings than the Space Program.
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Michael Frayn is an English playwright and novelist. He is best known as the author of the farce Noises Off and the dramas Copenhagen and Democracy. His novels, such as Towards the End of the Morning, Headlong and Spies, have also been critical and commercial successes, making him one of the handful of writers in the English language to succeed in both drama and prose fiction. His works often rais ...more
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