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Mendel's Dwarf

3.64  ·  Rating details ·  1,142 ratings  ·  147 reviews
Like his great, great uncle, the early geneticist Gregor Mendel, Dr. Benedict Lambert is struggling to unlock the secrets of heredity. But Benedict's mission is particularly urgent and particularly personal, for he is afflicted with achondroplasia—he's a dwarf. He's also a man desperate for love. And when he finds it in the form of Jean—simple and shy—he stumbles upon an o ...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published July 1st 1999 by Penguin Books (first published January 1st 1997)
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3.64  · 
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 ·  1,142 ratings  ·  147 reviews

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Mar 10, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: simon-mawer
My husband is a when I saw this book, I just had to read it! The man in the book is an Achondoplasia Dwarf, which is about 80% of the dwarf population. My husband is an Acromesomelic Dwarf which is very rare. 80% of Dwarf Babies are born to 2 average size parents. Yes, 2 dwarf parents up the odds to 50% dwarf baby/50% average size baby. My husband and his 1st wife(she died 17 yrs ago& she was an Achondoplasia dwarf) have an average size daughter(she is 20 yrs old)!

This is a BEAUTI
Jan 02, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Anyone with even a passing interest in eugenics and genetics would find this book of interest. It stands firmly on its own two feet as a dramatic novel, clever, sad, thought provoking story of Gregor Mendel (the father of modern genetics) and his distant heir, intellectually and genetically, Benedict Lambert. The two timelines weave together seamlessly, but it is Benedict who is the main character and this is very much his story since he is the eponymous Mendel's dwarf and a genius scientist obs ...more
Mar 02, 2009 rated it really liked it
Dr. Benjamin Lambert is the great-great-great-nephew of the geneticist Gregor Mendel. Ben is also a geneticist but has a bigger challenge between him and the world - he is a dwarf. The real story starts when he expresses his love for the librarian, Jean, and the complications that arise from their relationship.

The author uses science throughout the story but manages to make it easy to grasp; Mawer himself is a scientist and it shows with his knowledge of genetics, biology, evolution, and researc
Always Pink
Dec 13, 2014 rated it liked it
Cleverly constructed novel, combining two biographies with quite a bit of scientific background. The two portrayed characters are Gregor Mendel and his fictious great-nephew, who suffers from achondroplasia, an autosomal dominant disorder. Mawer's novel is a finely tuned psychological study, illustrating Mendel's laws of inheritance, not shrinking from issues of eugenics. Well written, solidly researched, very enlightening on genetical matters as well as entertaining - recommended.
Theresa Leone Davidson
I have a friend from whom I have asked permission to write about: when I lived in NYC, in an apartment I had before I was married, he was my neighbor. We still talk on the phone every couple of months and meet up for coffee occasionally. He is blind, completely without sight. He has always had a guide dog, he still maintains his Queens apartment in which he lives alone, he tells the MOST filthy, and often sexist, but VERY funny jokes, he has had a couple of long term relationships over the years ...more
Part science history, part recent history, part treatise on eugenics, part powerful reflection on our attitudes to disability and our growing ability to play God through genetic manipulation, part a brilliant and clever work of fiction : this book defies attempts to put it into a single neat bookshelf category. Indeed it probably needs a shelf all of it's own.

Dr Benedict Lambert the eponymous achondoplastic descendent of Gregor Mendel, is a professor of genetics whose personal challenges in lif
Aug 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
London geneticist Benedict Lambert is the great-great-great-nephew of Gregor Mendel, the priest who discovered the laws of heredity and whose work, lost from view until decades after his death, finally offered a mechanism for natural selection. But this isn't Ben's only distinction. He has the disadvantage of being an achondroplasic dwarf, which means he finds difficulty in being taken seriously in both his professional and his social life -- specifically, his sexual life.

But then, at last, he f
Laura Bowater
Feb 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. Simon Mawer's portrayal of Dr. Benedict Lambert the great, great nephew of the early geneticist Gregor Mendel, is poignant and beautifully portrayed. Benedict's absorption and obsessional search to unlock the secrets of heredity is a response to his personal urge to seek out the molecular explanation for his achondroplasia as well as a simple tribute to his famous uncle; the father of genetics. Father Mendel's life is brought to life and his ability to reconcile his sense of G ...more
Rebecca Altmann
Dec 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I nearly didn't finish the book but the last third upped the rating from one star to two, because of the genetics and historical content.
I was looking forward to reading this but got a rather different book than I was expecting, with a pompous and unlikeable narrator. Benedict Lambert is a creep.
I got well and truly sick of him reminding me that his penis was the only part of his body unaffected by achodroplasia. He spends a considerable portion of the book talking about his penis, thinking abou
Aug 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
I hesitated before buying this book, unsure that I would engage with the topic. There is a lot of scientific data in it and that's not something that would ordinarily interest me but, typically, Mawer managed to relate it in such a way that it was understandable, even to me, which is just as well as understanding the genetics is intrinsic to understanding the premise of the novel. The main character is not particularly likeable but it is possible to empathise with his view of the world. I'm unsu ...more
Sophie Rayton
Nov 07, 2017 rated it did not like it
How do I hate thee? Let me count the ways.

The dwarf is a selfish dirty pervert rapist and the quick ascerbic wit he was supposed to have did not find its way to this reader.
The tandem story of Mendel did not work and only added to making it longer.

"The whims of women. Like racial stereotypes, you desperately deny their existence, and yet there they are. One cannot deny them. Like the violence of men, the whims of women exist."


Hated it from start to end. Would have put it down after the
Aug 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful. Learn about genetics while getting to know a cranky, intelligent, funny little man - Dr. Benedict Lambert. Lambert is a dwarf. He is also a geneticist, and much of his drive in this field is to find out just what makes a dwarf.

About 90% of "little people" are accidents. They come from normal parents with no history of dwarfism. It's a genetic goof, a mutation. The question is: where does this mutation occur on the incredibly long DNA chain? When offered a seat at a prestigious instit
RB Love
Masterful. Ingenius. Brilliant. Also, a little technical and biology specific. So, you know, I highly recommend this book to my friends who are teaching second semester high school biology, or are taking biology right now or have an acute interest or fetish with biology and genetics. The science of genetics, frankly and unfortunately, has left this book, published in 1998, far behind, but it is a beautiful story of the way things were way back in the late nineties.
This would be a decent movie.
Jan 16, 2018 rated it it was ok
I really thought I would like this book but the narrator was so narcisistic and unbelievably needy at the same time that I felt like I was being too much of a voyeur. Most times the reader is a bit of a peeper when reading a fittest person narrative but it feels okay when you like the character. I couldn't feel any sympathy for Ben, I just wanted him to go away and leave me alone. Also for him to be Gregor Lender's descendent was heavy handed.
Nov 22, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I have loved all Simon Mawer’s other novels, but this one is far too technical for me. I skimmed over half the book and really only continued to the end as I was interested to see what the outcome would be of his one particular relationship. So, if you like technical stuff and are particularly interested in genetics, this is for you. Otherwise, I would give it a miss.
Andrea Rothman
Mar 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Benedict Lambert's scientific inquiry into achondroplasia is deeply personal, for he is a dwarf: a beautiful and harrowing account of heredity and a man's quest for love against all odds. The voice is sharp and deft, the scientific details adroit and symbolic of Benedict's plight.
Karen Koenig
Sep 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I love novels that get science right!
Feb 07, 2010 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This book features Benedict Lambert, who suffers from a condition called achondroplasia, which has made him a dwarf. He is a descendant of Gregor Mendel, the Austrian monk who first worked out the mechanism of genetic inheritance. Benedict's research goal is to isolate the gene that caused his affliction.

Lambert is a very engrossing character. He's applauded for his accomplishments and “bravery” even though he reminds his friends and colleagues that it's only bravery when you have a choice. His
Jan 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book reflects excellence in writing and an extremely thorough research in the theory and history of genetics right from the day and especially for the period it was just evolving , in the times of Father Gregor Johann Mendel, an Austrian monk and known as the Father of modern genetics..
The book will surely be liked by those who have studied genetics as a subject academically or have an interest in the genetics. Rest may or may not like since the book goes in great length about the basics as
Denise Flynn
Nov 11, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Intrigued when I read the blurb on the book and the reviews, gripped most way through, slightly lost at times with the science but kept up with most of it. A book about a Dwarf with the chosen career of a geneticist. I think it will be interesting at bookclub and likely to have turned some off completely. I'm looking forward to the views of our genetics member. I would have given it 5 stars but for some unforeseen rather explicit passages which made me rather uncomfortable. That said, perhaps th ...more
Phoebe Long
Jun 27, 2017 rated it liked it
An engaging story about Mendel discovering genetic principles in the 19th century and a dwarf who discovers his own genetic mutation. This book reviews basic genetics and the social and emotional significance of divergence from the norm and genetic mutation. I feel I would know so much more about biology if I could find more books like this!

"There is no gene for the shape of your nose...genes only work through proteins. It is one gene: one protein; not one gene: one big toe...Each gene carries t
Anne Mcginnes
Jun 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018
A fascinating book which cleverly interweaves two stories to cover the history of the science of genetics. I was totally absorbed in this book. I was reminded of Cracking the Code where Stephen Damiani attempts to isolate the gene responsible for his son's disability. Mendel's Dwarf show how supremely simple and yet incredibly complex is the human genome. While I had to use the dictionary frequently to look up medical terms, I found the scientific basis of this novel completely engrossing and no ...more
Lucinda Clarke
May 24, 2018 rated it it was ok
Any book where I have to use the dictionary on every page, is not for me. It completely breaks the flow of the story – not that there was much ‘story’ in this book it is more of a narrative. True, at the end I knew a little about the life of Mendel, (I remember sorting out his white, brown and black mice in school), but it wasn’t until the last couple of chapters there was any real tension and I had to read the last page twice to sort out what had transpired. If had not been a Book Club read I w ...more
Nov 27, 2018 rated it did not like it
This is an odd book actually 3 books in one. You have a text book on genetics, you have the story of G Mendel the great-great-great uncle and you have the sad story of Benedict, the dwarf. The genetics bit is more than I ever wanted to know and certainly not what I was expecting when reading a novel. The Mendel story is quite boring and does not add anything. The dwarf story is better but quite predictable except for the end. This makes a very long and boring book. The reason I did not mark it l ...more
May 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mystery-series
The story of Benedict is intertwined with the story of his famous ancestor, Gregor Mendel, who has inspired him to study genetics and try to unlock the code for his own condition: achondroplastic dwarfism. He has developed a hard shell developed over the years, and an ironic sense of humor that masks his true feelings. Never having had a romantic relationship, he finds it hard to allow himself to get that close to Jean, who begins as just a friend. Fascinating character study.
Elizabeth Williams
Dec 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is an interesting read - to begin with I wasnt sure about it and nearly gave up. But it did finally hook me and it was quite compelling. I spent a lot of time not liking the protagonist but I did admire the writer's ability to create a layered complex character which I could empathise with even when I didn't like him.
Dec 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: simon-mawer
Another very well written book by Simon Mawer. There’s a lot in this book about genetics which I don’t understand but I really enjoyed it nevertheless with the suspense in the story right to the end..
Paul J
Sep 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating story

Completely engrossing, combining an introduction to genetics, a history of Mendel, and a love story, now looking for more from this author

Amber M. McCarter
Oct 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
This was not only an ingenious historical fiction, but a haunting and deeply layered fiction in its own right. I am still struggling in the aftermath...
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Simon Mawer (born 1948, England) is a British author. He currently lives in Italy.

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“You can tell nothing from a man's appearance, nothing except the depths of your own prejudice.” 7 likes
“It is difficult to reconstruct an emotion. At times it is difficult even to admit to one. I have practiced long and hard at denying entry to such twin imposters as triumph and disaster, or love and hate, but sometimes the barriers are breached.” 3 likes
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