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Double Blind

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Double Blind follows three close friends and their circle through a year of extraordinary transformation. Set between London, Cap d'Antibes, Big Sur, and a rewilded corner of Sussex, this thrilling, ambitious novel is about the headlong pursuit of knowledge—for the purposes of pleasure, revelation, money, sanity, or survival—and the consequences of fleeing from what we kno Double Blind follows three close friends and their circle through a year of extraordinary transformation. Set between London, Cap d'Antibes, Big Sur, and a rewilded corner of Sussex, this thrilling, ambitious novel is about the headlong pursuit of knowledge—for the purposes of pleasure, revelation, money, sanity, or survival—and the consequences of fleeing from what we know about others and ourselves. When Olivia meets a new lover just as she is welcoming her best friend, Lucy, back from New York, her dedicated academic life expands precipitously. Her connection to Francis, a committed naturalist living off the grid, is immediate and startling. Eager to involve Lucy in her joy, Olivia introduces the two—but Lucy has received shocking news of her own that binds the trio unusually close. Over the months that follow, Lucy’s boss, Hunter, Olivia’s psychoanalyst parents, and a young man named Sebastian are pulled into the friends’ orbit, and not one of them will emerge unchanged. Expansive, playful, and compassionate, Edward St. Aubyn's Double Blind investigates themes of inheritance, determinism, freedom, consciousness, and the stories we tell about ourselves. St. Aubyn's major new novel is as compelling about ecology, psychoanalysis, genetics, and neuroscience as it is about love, fear, and courage. Most of all, it is a perfect expression of the interconnections it sets out to examine, and a moving evocation of an imagined world that is deeply intelligent, often tender, curious, and very much alive.


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Double Blind follows three close friends and their circle through a year of extraordinary transformation. Set between London, Cap d'Antibes, Big Sur, and a rewilded corner of Sussex, this thrilling, ambitious novel is about the headlong pursuit of knowledge—for the purposes of pleasure, revelation, money, sanity, or survival—and the consequences of fleeing from what we kno Double Blind follows three close friends and their circle through a year of extraordinary transformation. Set between London, Cap d'Antibes, Big Sur, and a rewilded corner of Sussex, this thrilling, ambitious novel is about the headlong pursuit of knowledge—for the purposes of pleasure, revelation, money, sanity, or survival—and the consequences of fleeing from what we know about others and ourselves. When Olivia meets a new lover just as she is welcoming her best friend, Lucy, back from New York, her dedicated academic life expands precipitously. Her connection to Francis, a committed naturalist living off the grid, is immediate and startling. Eager to involve Lucy in her joy, Olivia introduces the two—but Lucy has received shocking news of her own that binds the trio unusually close. Over the months that follow, Lucy’s boss, Hunter, Olivia’s psychoanalyst parents, and a young man named Sebastian are pulled into the friends’ orbit, and not one of them will emerge unchanged. Expansive, playful, and compassionate, Edward St. Aubyn's Double Blind investigates themes of inheritance, determinism, freedom, consciousness, and the stories we tell about ourselves. St. Aubyn's major new novel is as compelling about ecology, psychoanalysis, genetics, and neuroscience as it is about love, fear, and courage. Most of all, it is a perfect expression of the interconnections it sets out to examine, and a moving evocation of an imagined world that is deeply intelligent, often tender, curious, and very much alive.

30 review for Double Blind

  1. 5 out of 5

    Paromjit

    There is much I enjoyed in Edward St. Aubyn's latest novel with its Shakespearian allusions, not least his wonderfully vivid prose, but it also feels over ambitious in its multitude of issues raised, all of which he obviously cares about, but which overall result in weakening the coherence of the storytelling. The themes of climate change, genetics, inheritance, technology in the field of neuroscience are tackled through its wide ranging main and minor characters. Francis is a conservationist in There is much I enjoyed in Edward St. Aubyn's latest novel with its Shakespearian allusions, not least his wonderfully vivid prose, but it also feels over ambitious in its multitude of issues raised, all of which he obviously cares about, but which overall result in weakening the coherence of the storytelling. The themes of climate change, genetics, inheritance, technology in the field of neuroscience are tackled through its wide ranging main and minor characters. Francis is a conservationist involved in rewilding efforts on the Howarth estate, owned by a philanthropic couple in West Sussex. His lover, Olivia, is a biologist who becomes pregnant, her friend Lucy returns from New York to run a start up set up by the eye catching venture capitalist tycoon, the hedonist Hunter Sterling, with his recreational drug taking and copious alcohol intake. The connections between them grow stronger when it becomes known that Lucy has a brain tumour. We are given insights into their interior lives, ruminations on consciousness, science and the state of the universe. The adopted Olivia's psychoanalyst father takes on a client, the schizophrenic Sebastian, with whom more connections are to emerge. There are entertaining and satirical aspects, wit and comic touches that turn into pure farce, and parties, but many of the interesting issues end up hanging in the air, which is such a shame. Nevertheless, I think many readers will appreciate this story of survival, mental health issues, adoption, love, bravery and fear. For me, its greatest strength is the quality of the beautiful writing which so often captivates and mesmerises. Many thanks to Random House Vintage for an ARC.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Meike

    St. Aubyn knows how to portray social spheres and their signifiers, and how to evoke atmosphere and bring settings to life. Still, this novel about family and genes, nature and nurture, neuroscience and social circumstances tends to get lost in its own ideas while remaining less immersive than it could be. We meet thirtysomething Lucy, who works for venture capitalist and hobby philanthropist Hunter, a tycoon fascinated by the possibilities of brain science. As Lucy gets diagnosed with a brain t St. Aubyn knows how to portray social spheres and their signifiers, and how to evoke atmosphere and bring settings to life. Still, this novel about family and genes, nature and nurture, neuroscience and social circumstances tends to get lost in its own ideas while remaining less immersive than it could be. We meet thirtysomething Lucy, who works for venture capitalist and hobby philanthropist Hunter, a tycoon fascinated by the possibilities of brain science. As Lucy gets diagnosed with a brain tumor, her old friend Olivia tries to support her as much as she can, and the same goes for Olivia's new boyfriend Francis, a conservationist, as well as Olivia's adoptive parents who are psychologists. You guessed it: All these paths cross, there also is a lost twin, mental illness and a new baby, and readers get a tale to contemplate questions of psychology and biology. So the set-up and the contrasting characters are well thought out, but unfortunately, the book remains a little bloodless. The story meanders on, and while many vignettes and observations are spot-on, smart and pristine, the story lacks narrative discipline, it grows wildly like Francis' nature reserve which bears the risk of readers getting lost in the thick foliage. Also, there are a lot of hints to Germany and German music, but the German writing this review did not quite get the point. St. Aubyn is a great writer with great ideas, but this novel fell a little short. Still, I can't wait to read his next effort.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer

    'What about twin studies?' said Hunter. 'Aren't they the gold standard for a lot of this genetic analysis?' `They're often treated that way,' said Olivia, 'but lots of clinical psychologists, like my brother Charlie, question the Equal Environment Assumption on which they rest. They attribute outcomes to purely genetic causes by ignoring favouritism, scapegoating, imposed narratives and, in the case of identical twins, the effects of often being dressed in the same clothes, being in the same 'What about twin studies?' said Hunter. 'Aren't they the gold standard for a lot of this genetic analysis?' `They're often treated that way,' said Olivia, 'but lots of clinical psychologists, like my brother Charlie, question the Equal Environment Assumption on which they rest. They attribute outcomes to purely genetic causes by ignoring favouritism, scapegoating, imposed narratives and, in the case of identical twins, the effects of often being dressed in the same clothes, being in the same class at school, having the same friends, being mistaken for each other and experiencing "ego fusion". Genetic enthusiasts try to get around these social and psychological facts by saying that the genes of identical twins "create" confounding non-genetic influences, as if two infant twins, lying next to each other in the same pram, cast out a powerful genetic force field that compels their mother to dress them identically, while the rest of the world turns to stone. The mother herself is not, in this persuasive scenario, subject to any environmental, financial, social or psychological forces, or indeed genetic influences of her own, but is just controlled by her monozygotic twins' genetic "creativity". It's the kind of circular argument, assuming what it set out to prove, that appears again and again in twin studies, like a wagon formation protecting a beleaguered dogma. I have previously read St Aubyn’s Patrick Melrose Quintology (or trilogy depending on how you group them) 10 years or so ago and really enjoyed them: despite all the excess I found them to feature extremely good writing - beautiful use of language and real philosophical insight into a complex set of unappealing characters (and I have to say by an author I find personally rather unappealing). I never got round to (but must read) his literary prize farce “Lost for Words” and avoided “Dunbar” more because the Hogarth Shakespeare series proved to be an ill-conceived idea. So it was interesting to return to his work – and I have to say a pleasure from start to finish. I am aware though that I am largely alone in that view: the book was panned by the mainstream media (when assessed against the usual standards of the mutual appreciation/reinforcement society which now passes for “professional” book reading: note to reader: Goodreads is so much better a source of objective reviews); and also it has to be said given extremely mixed reactions from some of the best reviewers on Goodreads. The basic set up of the book centres around Olivia – a biologist completing a book on Epigenetics> At a conference on megafauna extinction she meets Francis – a conservationist running a rewilding project on a Sussex Estate and the two become lovers. At the same time Olivia’s best friend from University Lucy who has been living in New York as a science strategy consultant is returning to London to start a job with a technology and science venture capital fund run by a serial entrepreneur – the rather cartoonishly named and described Hunter Sterling (like the author an alumni of Westminster school). When Lucy finds she has a dangerous brain tumour it seems to slightly deflect Hunter from his voracious pursuit of profit, alcohol and drugs into at least an attempt at compassion. Meanwhile Olivia’s father – a psychoanalyst specialising in Schizophrenia, starts to suspect that his latest and most demanding patient Sebastian might have a link to Olivia (both having been adopted). But this are the main characters only – prominent side characters include (but are far from limited to): an evolutionary anti-religion geneticist whose books (but definitely not practical scientific work) are modelled on Richard Dawkins; Saul - the AI and robotics leader of Hunter’s firm; a rather other-wordly Franciscan Father who naively allows Saul to scan the head of the movement’s brain; a very worldly-wise Cardinal straight out of a Dan Brown novel who insists the Father negotiates a profit-share; Hunter’s bizarre new age neighbour who seems determined to seduce Francis; a rather clinical Brian Surgeon brilliantly named – in a nod to “Saturday” - Mr Mc Ewan; oh – and in an absurdly gratuitous inclusion both by Hunter (and by St Aubyn himself) Kraftwerk (who appear in the first of two set pieces in opulent settings where all the characters converge to rather limited effect). And the ideas and areas which are explored include (but again are very far from limited to): bio-diversity and extinction; rewilding; genetical research and epigenetics; brain structure and mapping; trans-cranial magnetic stimulation (which interestingly is very similar to the Decoded Neurorfeedback which Richard Powers explores in his latest novel – more later on that comparison); venture capitalism; organised religion; the Human Genome project; meditative practices; fungal networks and fungal parasites (and an analogy to sexual obsession); the effect of drugs on consciousness; the mind/brain dichotomy; the nature of consciousness; mental illness; psychoanalytical practice; ceramic armour and so on. A particular favourite of mine is twin studies (which also links to the Twelfth Night inspired link between characters and tangentially to the book's title, albeit that is more conventionally linked to a different type of experiment). And all of this is in turn is really a way for St Aubyn to explore his real theme – which I would call the idea of gaps and of missing links. That includes the gap between experience and experiment – between our feelings and theory; the inability of genetic sequencing to explain all but the most simply gene-related diseases; the replication crisis in science (the gap between widely accepted studies and the ability to repeat them); the gap between mind and brain; between psychiatric theory and reality as experienced by their patients; the gap between scientific disciplines. The book has been described by some as being anti-science but I think that is incorrect – the book is instead anti scientific fundamentalism, where scientists (either because they do not want to endanger their funding and reputation or simply due to their training taking the form of a seminary, their work as form of worship and their own teaching as a form of indoctrination – it is no accident that St Aubyn includes a cynical religious leader) refuse to admit to the uncertainty and often large flaws in their own work, to see the potential benefit of alternative approaches (religion, holistic medicine) or to bridge the gap to different disciplines. The writing in may ways reminds me of Richard Powers: the seeming inability to write convincingly anything other than one’s own nationality/class (here St Aubyn is comfortable only with higher class English characters); the use coincidental plot simply as a device for exploration of ideas and of characters simply as a device for their exposition; the complete lack of acknowledgements and scientific references (oddly here the exception being Kraftwerk). But whereas Power is all about rather folksy and fundamentally decent characters, St Aubyn of course is much more comfortable when writing about extremes of wealth and behaviour. Does this relatively short novel slightly collapse under the weight of so many ideas and characters? Does the book require almost total concentration on every sentence not to get lost in the torrent of ideas, allusions, and witticisms? Do – even with total concentration - the stream of consciousness chapters (one by Sebastian, one by Francis) end up tying themselves in knots? Are some of the characters little more than gratuitous cartoons? Is the eminently (almost ridiculously) quotable and sharply observed dialogue almost entirely artificial? Do the drug taking and excessive riches get tedious if not offensive (even for this reader who laughed out loud knowingly at a accurate observation on the counter-intuitive difference in terminology (my plane versus the plane) between people who fly on commercial airliners and those who fly on corporate jets) Is the ending – get the characters all together for a set piece finale and then not delivering it - a rather odd damp squib? The answer to all these questions is yes. Was this at times preposterous book also the most intellectually entertaining (or perhaps entertainingly intellectual) novel of the 100+ novels I have read this year. The answer to that is yes also.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Sam Quixote

    Edward St Aubyn’s latest novel Double Blind doesn’t really have a story per se, you’re just introduced to a group of compelling characters at interesting points in their lives and follow them for the duration of the book. It’s about human relationships and science and the pursuit of the next technological breakthrough but there’s no one main character or neat, self-contained storyline that could summarise the novel. It’s still quite enjoyable though. Lucy gets a rare brain tumour and we see the Edward St Aubyn’s latest novel Double Blind doesn’t really have a story per se, you’re just introduced to a group of compelling characters at interesting points in their lives and follow them for the duration of the book. It’s about human relationships and science and the pursuit of the next technological breakthrough but there’s no one main character or neat, self-contained storyline that could summarise the novel. It’s still quite enjoyable though. Lucy gets a rare brain tumour and we see the process of what going through that must be like; she begins a new job with tech billionaire Hunter and we see what his bonkers life is like; Lucy’s friend Olivia is adopted and Olivia’s psychologist father begins treating a schizophrenic young man called Sebastian who may or may not be Olivia’s long-lost brother. And there’s some unexpected comedy (considering this is a Literary book) when the Catholic Father Guido accidentally doses himself with molly and booze during one of Hunter’s fabulous parties. Some of the chapters are less interesting than others. I wasn’t that taken with Olivia’s naturalist beau Francis and his extended pontificating on the state of the environment, and he unfortunately gets the lion’s share of the pages once he’s introduced to the billionaire set towards the end. Some of the chapters are quite difficult to read too, like Francis’ inner rambling (while rambling through nature), or Hunter’s near-overdose scene when he wrestles with physics or Sebastian’s word-soup when he spirals. Not that they were poorly written - St Aubyn is without question a first-rate writer - but that the sentences went on and on and on and on and… you can only read a sentence for so long, particularly ones that contain so many thoughts, before you find yourself doubling back and re-reading, which gets tiresome over the course of several pages. And the novel just ends. Which is fine because it’s not like it was building towards something - the reader is dropped into these characters’ lives and is just as abruptly taken away from them. But it does leave you scratching your head as to what it all meant - if anything. The title is a reference to a clinical trial where neither the researcher nor the participant knows whether the participant is getting the real treatment or a placebo, which ties in to some things Lucy undergoes and the overall science theme. Though I’m not sure what St Aubyn is driving at - maybe he’s saying that if placebos sometimes cure people then there’s potentially something within us that can self-heal that we haven’t discovered yet… or something woo woo like that? I’m not sure who I would recommend this to but I thought Double Blind was a decent and sometimes fun read featuring a colourful cast of well-written characters pootling about their largely upper-class lives.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Doug

    3.5, rounded up. Aside from his early novel On the Edge, I've read everything St. Aubyn has published, and count his pentalogy of Patrick Melrose novels amongst my top favorites of all time. I wasn't terribly enamored of his last offering, Dunbar, the King Lear manqué he wrote as part of the modern Hogarth Shakespeare series; despite its Booker nomination, I felt he was somewhat constrained by the confines of the original. He seems to be somewhat under the same Shakespearian thrall here, as two o 3.5, rounded up. Aside from his early novel On the Edge, I've read everything St. Aubyn has published, and count his pentalogy of Patrick Melrose novels amongst my top favorites of all time. I wasn't terribly enamored of his last offering, Dunbar, the King Lear manqué he wrote as part of the modern Hogarth Shakespeare series; despite its Booker nomination, I felt he was somewhat constrained by the confines of the original. He seems to be somewhat under the same Shakespearian thrall here, as two of his major characters are Olivia and Sebastian, twins separated and adopted by different families, an obvious allusion to Twelfth Night. As with that play, Double Blind finds the author in a more playful mood, and the exquisite, meaty, delicious and droll prose for which he's justly famous is aptly on display. Although the book reads quickly, it becomes bogged down at several points by some needlessly confusing explications of principals of physics that lost me completely. My other minor quibble is the plethora of minor underwritten characters who pop in and out, and the rather late arrival of Hope, one of his most disarming creations, of whom I'd have liked to have seen much more. There is also a dizzying array of locations that characters careen to seemingly willy-nilly, so I always had to go back to figure out where we were at any given point. The ending also seemed a mite rushed, and although the expected (minor spoiler ahead) reunion of the aforementioned twins is satisfying, several of the balls that St Aubyn has lofted seem to remain airborne. Regardless, this is a delightful and audacious entry to the St. Aubyn canon, and my sincere appreciation to Netgalley and FS & G for the ARC, in exchange for this honest (and first on GR!) review

  6. 5 out of 5

    Mandy

    I simply don’t understand why this mess of a book has garnered so much praise. Masquerading as a novel about some very unconvincing and unlikeable characters it seems to be merely a vehicle for St Aubyn to express his ideas about issues he has researched and which he then inserts into the novel in large indigestible chunks with no attempt to integrate them into the narrative. Yes, they are important ideas and issues, and yes, he seems to have some understanding of them – but why not write a seri I simply don’t understand why this mess of a book has garnered so much praise. Masquerading as a novel about some very unconvincing and unlikeable characters it seems to be merely a vehicle for St Aubyn to express his ideas about issues he has researched and which he then inserts into the novel in large indigestible chunks with no attempt to integrate them into the narrative. Yes, they are important ideas and issues, and yes, he seems to have some understanding of them – but why not write a series of essays instead? One reviewer encapsulated my thoughts about the book perfectly – pompous pontification. Wish I’d thought of that. Long digressions about epigenetics, schizophrenia, ecology, neuroscience, rewilding are just thrown in and the characters who sometimes express these ideas are neither interesting nor credible. And I’m so tired of reading about high-powered executives and their excessive drug-use and hedonistic life-style – something that St Aubyn seems to find admirable. This attempt at a novel is overwritten, peppered with too many similes and peopled by characters I simply failed to relate to. I can’t help feeling that St Aubyn is living off his reputation as the author of the (overrated) Melrose novels and his publishers haven’t even tried to rein him in.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Sid Nuncius

    I have enjoyed Edward St. Aubyn’s work in the past but I was very disappointed in Double Blind – so much so that I gave up before the end. The story is of three friends and associated characters and is well summarised in the publishers’ blurb, as two of them embark on a deep love affair and another becomes seriously ill with a brain tumour. St. Aubyn uses this on which to hang a lot (and I mean a lot) of talk and internal monologue about the nature of science, the roles of genetics and environmen I have enjoyed Edward St. Aubyn’s work in the past but I was very disappointed in Double Blind – so much so that I gave up before the end. The story is of three friends and associated characters and is well summarised in the publishers’ blurb, as two of them embark on a deep love affair and another becomes seriously ill with a brain tumour. St. Aubyn uses this on which to hang a lot (and I mean a lot) of talk and internal monologue about the nature of science, the roles of genetics and environment in human development, psychoanalysis, ecology, mental illness, where and how brain activity becomes consciousness...and so on. He writes well (of course), although I found the dialogue a bit clunky at times, with things like this when discussing memories: “ ‘I’ve heard that some people can catch a ride on a madeleine,’ said Hunter, ‘but the French already have the patent on that low-tech time machine.’ ” Really? As a spontaneous remark in a discussion? Hmm. I also found some of the characterisation a bit crude, especially the thoroughly unsubtle contrast between Francis, the poorly paid but sincere ecological researcher who is lovely, mindful and holistic, and Howard, the billionaire grasping, exploitative, drug-riddled, reductionist sexual predator. What really got me, though, was the sheer hogwash talked about science in places. There follows a lengthy quotation from the book which both gives a flavour of its style and content and also illustrate why I got so annoyed with it: “Space, instead of being a desolate interval between pinpricks of sentience, must be the conscious medium in which these more obvious forms of consciousness were concentrated. If matter was not inherently conscious, then one had to fall back on the official story that the pinpricks of sentience existed in an otherwise inanimate universe thanks to a mind-numbingly long poker game in which the elements of the Periodic Table had been dealt out again and again until one bit of deadness haphazardly acquired the Full House of life, and then only a few million hands later, the Royal Flush of consciousness. This Royal Flush Theory was defended by three rowdy musketeers: Randomness, Complexity and Emergence. Hurrah! They came with all the plumage and the inane bravado of swashbuckling heroes who love nothing better than to get themselves into an impossible position: fighting for reductionism’s attempt to subsume the irreducible. Despite all their rooftop antics, the only proposition they really had to offer was that luck multiplied by time transubstantiated matter. It was like claiming that if a child played Lego for long enough her mother might come down one day and find a blue whale emerging from the carpet. After the initial struggle to get her smartphone back from the whale in which enough consciousness had emerged for it to google the location of the nearest beach, and after telling her daughter to please stop playing with that Lego set, a certain perplexity might set in about how matter had rearranged itself so unexpectedly. The authoritative answer would be that it had become complex thanks to Complexity, and that once Complexity passed a critical threshold, consciousness emerged thanks to Emergence, and that it was forbidden to think that consciousness was involved at any earlier stage because Randomness had been placed there to banish superstition. This explanation might not strike the puzzled parent as entirely persuasive. It was, after all, a creation myth with many rivals.” And: “Science had swept away these childish stories of sneezing gods and dreaming gods, of divine artists and divine sperm, of golden rain and copulating swans, in order to place some thoroughly sanitised but equally non-explanatory concepts at the inception of its narratives.” And “How It Began, a subject to which the only coherent response was silence.” This is not the place for a detailed thesis on the philosophy of science, but I will say that a) Evolution is a mind-numbingly long poker game, but the theory stands up to every test to which it is subjected, and b) Current theories about the origins of the universe are most certainly not Creation Myths. They have both a logical, evidential structure and, vitally, predictive power. The “non-explanatory concepts” are simply statements that our knowledge is incomplete - but one of science’s great strengths is that it acknowledges when it doesn’t know things but strives to learn more. The science which works on the origin of the universe has brought us, among many, many other things, the internet and Covid vaccines. Creation myths have not. And the idea that our only response to the question of how it all began should be silence...well, ironically, words fail me. Enough. I ploughed on through a good deal more of this stuff in a wide range of subjects but found it deeply unsatisfying and sometimes thoroughly annoying. Eventually I decided that life was too short. There are some good things about this book, but there is also a good deal of utter hogwash. I expected better from Edward St. Aubyn and I can’t recommend this. (My thanks to Vintage Books for an ARC via NetGalley.)

  8. 4 out of 5

    Mimi

    I've never read Edward St. Aubyn but knowing that Benedict Cumberbatch is going to narrate the audio book makes this one on my list I've never read Edward St. Aubyn but knowing that Benedict Cumberbatch is going to narrate the audio book makes this one on my list

  9. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    I have long been an admirer of Edward St. Aubyn and was delighted to receive his latest novel. It begins beautifully, with conservationist Francis, a naturalist, surveying the land in the Howorth Estate, where he has been responsible for giving it over to 'wilding.' As Francis wanders through nature, he awaits Oliva, who he recently met at a conference in Oxford. Their unfolding love affair coincides with the arrival of Olivia's friend, Lucy, who has returning to London to take up a new post, bu I have long been an admirer of Edward St. Aubyn and was delighted to receive his latest novel. It begins beautifully, with conservationist Francis, a naturalist, surveying the land in the Howorth Estate, where he has been responsible for giving it over to 'wilding.' As Francis wanders through nature, he awaits Oliva, who he recently met at a conference in Oxford. Their unfolding love affair coincides with the arrival of Olivia's friend, Lucy, who has returning to London to take up a new post, but hardly arrives when she discovers she is ill. This novel sees the coinciding of the many personal relationships - and there are many - with many more, wide-ranging, topics. As well as physical illness, St. Aubyn explores mental health, business, science, research and tech. While the personal relationships include friendship, love, adoptive, parental, that of employers to employees (Lucy's new employer, Hunter, was one of my favourite characters) and the wider exploration of scientific solutions to the worlds problems. These topics are quite dispersed and that may be one of the reasons why I have given four, rather than five, stars. This could have been tighter, I felt, and also suffers a little because of recent events which have changed our world-view so much. Still, the author showed that awareness of the importance of research and business and, as always, he writes with humour and presents characters the reader cares about. St. Aubyn's prose never disappoints and he writes beautifully and creates a really immersive, literary world. I received a copy of this book from the publisher, via NetGalley, for review.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Kasa Cotugno

    How is it that Edward St. Aubyn can write so confidently about so many deep and disparate subjects. In this ambitious exploration of the effect of business on science, he presents three central characters, Olivia, Lucy and Francis, and those that comprise the world around them, all with agendas and situations exposing ills of today's world minus the pandemic. For the deliciously named Hunter Sterling acquisition is all, never mind what effect it has, but as he becomes less coked up and "less fun How is it that Edward St. Aubyn can write so confidently about so many deep and disparate subjects. In this ambitious exploration of the effect of business on science, he presents three central characters, Olivia, Lucy and Francis, and those that comprise the world around them, all with agendas and situations exposing ills of today's world minus the pandemic. For the deliciously named Hunter Sterling acquisition is all, never mind what effect it has, but as he becomes less coked up and "less fun," he does show signs of humanity. And he is not even one of the major characters. But all these characters illustrate matters relating to climate change, dna research, schizophrenia (and to a lesser extent, bipolar disorder), cancer, among others. Which is a long way of saying that for a relatively short book, Double Blind covers a lot of territory. However, for me, there is a weakness here -- the timing of this engrossing novel's publication cannot be ignored as it seems to be set in an alternative present, one that would exist if there weren't a worldwide lockdown. Since the book is so strong, my mind kept going back to that fact and wondering what St. Aubyn would have written if he had incorporated today's realities in his book.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    2.5 rounded down A book of two halves... from the way this was set up in the opening stages, I thought it held real promise. The writing was intelligent, and the scientific/medical elements slotted in with the narrative without being overly confusing - various characters are biologists, psychiatrists, conservationists, and one character is diagnosed with a brain tumour, one is undergoing therapy etc. And then at the halfway point things went south for this reader. New characters were introduced wi 2.5 rounded down A book of two halves... from the way this was set up in the opening stages, I thought it held real promise. The writing was intelligent, and the scientific/medical elements slotted in with the narrative without being overly confusing - various characters are biologists, psychiatrists, conservationists, and one character is diagnosed with a brain tumour, one is undergoing therapy etc. And then at the halfway point things went south for this reader. New characters were introduced with little context and who added nothing to the story. Ultimately there was way too much going on, and none of it was particularly well executed. The second of St. Aubyn's novels I've read (I ended up DNFing Never Mind), and perhaps it's time to accept that his style isn't for me. Thank you Netgalley and Random House UK / Vintage for the advance copy, which was provided in exchange for an honest review.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Anni

    In a departure from his usual style, Edward St.Aubyn has written an ambitious, issue-driven novel chronicling topical concerns such as climate change, biological determinism and gene therapy. Sending up the audacity of the modern scientific approach for solving our current ‘global malaise’ and our failure to reconcile the uncertainties of life with our human expectations, he satirises the theories of neuroscientists, physicists, geneticists and psychotherapists, to name but a few, with his mesme In a departure from his usual style, Edward St.Aubyn has written an ambitious, issue-driven novel chronicling topical concerns such as climate change, biological determinism and gene therapy. Sending up the audacity of the modern scientific approach for solving our current ‘global malaise’ and our failure to reconcile the uncertainties of life with our human expectations, he satirises the theories of neuroscientists, physicists, geneticists and psychotherapists, to name but a few, with his mesmerising prose. This is the second novel that I’ve read by this author (‘Lost for Words’ was the first) and it has now inspired me to read all his others. Many thanks to the publisher for the ARC via NetGalley.

  13. 5 out of 5

    David

    To say this is a novel of ideas is an understatement. Exploring botany, ecology, climate science, psychology, neuroscience, and other areas, the characters speak at length about their ideas in a way that borders on the tedious. At times, it felt like a lot of mansplaining by someone keen to show off all the research he did for his novel. Still, there were some interesting things happening here and I would have liked to see several story lines play out a bit more.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Charlie Miller

    I was provided an ARC by FSG in exchange for an honest review, which can be found below. I am a huge fan of Edward St. Aubyn, and I was ecstatic to receive an ARC of his latest book, Double Blind. I breezed through it pretty quickly, and there’s a lot to love about it. St. Aubyn’s prose is absolutely gorgeous, and while this one isn’t as funny as Lost for Words he still imbues it with a healthy amount of wry wit. There were some elements I didn’t like, such as the plot thread dealing with the “H I was provided an ARC by FSG in exchange for an honest review, which can be found below. I am a huge fan of Edward St. Aubyn, and I was ecstatic to receive an ARC of his latest book, Double Blind. I breezed through it pretty quickly, and there’s a lot to love about it. St. Aubyn’s prose is absolutely gorgeous, and while this one isn’t as funny as Lost for Words he still imbues it with a healthy amount of wry wit. There were some elements I didn’t like, such as the plot thread dealing with the “Happy Helmets,” which felt clumsy to me, as does a lot of contemporary fiction that tries to grapple with the tech industry. Overall, however, it was a highly enjoyable read and one I’d readily recommend. Rather than placing a single person at the center of this novel, St. Aubyn gives equal attention to a smattering of characters, interacting in a smattering of locations. The diversity of its plot threads and settings, as well as its tone, reminded me of Jennifer’s Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad or last year’s The Glass Hotel, by Emily St. John Mandel. Any novel with half a dozen significant characters sets itself up to be a relationship study, and Double Blind is no exception. The three characters at the center of the book, two old school friends, Lucy and Olivia, and Olivia’s boyfriend, Francis, make up the central hub from which all of these connections radiate. These relationships are numerous and quite diverse (paternal, fraternal, romantic, collegial, etc.) but the novel never felt cluttered. Each of the characters is well crafted and fits perfectly into the narrative. It is certainly the most expansive of St. Aubyn’s works that I’ve read, but that was probably necessitated by the themes he chose to address. While the Patrick Melrose novels were a masterclass in suffering, the problems therein are largely human-inflicted: abuse, drugs, bankruptcy, infidelity. While all of these are present in Double Blind, they’re presented against the backdrop of much, much bigger problems: climate change, capitalism, cancer, fate. And while I thought that centering problems like these would result in a pretty bleak novel, especially at the hands of a cynic like St. Aubyn, the result was surprisingly hopeful. Early in the book, he says of one of the characters learning of an impending extinction that “…the scale of the crisis invited a sense of impotence equal to his sense of horror.” The author is no optimist, but I think he believes that there’s just as much grace in accepting your problems as in ending them, and knows that most people just try to do the best they can.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Laura Spira

    After Edward St Aubyn's earlier books, which I have greatly enjoyed, I found this one disappointing. The story seemed like a bare framework on which to hang a handful of characters to provide mouthpieces for the author's attempt to produce a big novel of ideas. It is stuffed full of science: in places I felt I was being lectured at and I wasn't entirely convinced of the credibility of the lecturer, which sent me off looking things up, which is not what I want to do when reading a novel. (I think After Edward St Aubyn's earlier books, which I have greatly enjoyed, I found this one disappointing. The story seemed like a bare framework on which to hang a handful of characters to provide mouthpieces for the author's attempt to produce a big novel of ideas. It is stuffed full of science: in places I felt I was being lectured at and I wasn't entirely convinced of the credibility of the lecturer, which sent me off looking things up, which is not what I want to do when reading a novel. (I think Richard Powers does science much more convincingly.) I don't think St Aubyn is good at getting inside the heads of women: his female characters are often stereotypes. And the Shakespeare allusions were heavy-handed and became obtrusive. In places the writing was very vivid and he is good at snappy dialogue. The conversations between Olivia and Lucy, the two main female characters, were often entertaining - the sort of daft riffs that close friends indulge in - but St Aubyn didn't need to point that out to the reader. And the conversation between the cartoonish Cardinal and Father Guido was very funny, although it felt like a minor scene from Shakespeare. St Aubyn is also very good at writing about the effects of hallucinogenic drugs and schizophrenia. At least, I think he is, because I haven't experienced either. I do, however, live with a brain tumour and there is nothing convincing about Lucy's experience. As for the ending, it felt as if he suddenly ran out of steam. I didn't expect a tidy conclusion - there is no way to achieve that effectively with big themes - but this reminded me of the last episode of the first season of a TV drama, leaving cliffhangers to be resolved in a subsequent season. But I didn't care what happened to any of the characters, which, for me, is the test of a good novel. Other readers may enjoy the big themes but this reader didn't. Thanks to Netgalley and Vintage for the ARC.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Alex Sarll

    The Patrick Melrose novels are fascinating, intricate lattices constructed from the minutely understood awfulnesses and occasional epiphanies of the English upper classes. This is not like them. You know all those complaints that fiction should be doing more about our current environmental crises? St Aubyn has listened. And yes, on one level I can't argue that the themes here, of ecology in general and rewilding in particular, are more important than the precisely calibrated traumas of some posh The Patrick Melrose novels are fascinating, intricate lattices constructed from the minutely understood awfulnesses and occasional epiphanies of the English upper classes. This is not like them. You know all those complaints that fiction should be doing more about our current environmental crises? St Aubyn has listened. And yes, on one level I can't argue that the themes here, of ecology in general and rewilding in particular, are more important than the precisely calibrated traumas of some posh fuck-ups. But reading Double Blind still feels a lot like watching some magnificent but flighty thoroughbred set to pull a plough, to the benefit of neither horse nor field. St Aubyn has clearly done his research – and then tramped it in like mud gone straight from boots to carpet, rather than tended into the beds from which art might bloom. Here are the passenger pigeon, mycorrhizal networks, Yellowstone wolves, but all of them just flopped out there on the page. Characters open their mouths and statistics clunk forth, and if you think the dialogue is bad for this, wait until you see the interior monologues. At times I thought Double Blind might be what would happen if you set Iris Murdoch to write a novel of the Anthropocene, but that's unfair – not least because the players in a Murdoch tale would have had much more entertainingly tangled relationships, rather than the flat boy-meets-girl (plus one unresolved flirtation) chassis of this. It doesn't help that the characters feel very much like types; the high-flying woman in a man's world, derailed by biology; the coked-up tech tycoon, somehow less nuanced than the one on Avenue 5, which had the excuse of being a comedy, until love suddenly makes him fine actually; the off-grid naturalist, exactly the sort of character whose inevitable small hypocrisies and annoyances old St Aubyn would have skewered, but here seems to be taken at wholesome, flat, face value. And those are the main characters! There's a maniacal representative of the Inquisition whom even I, with my rock bottom opinion of the world's biggest paedophile ring, found a bit Dan Brown – and, inevitably, a celebrity atheist who, aaaaah, isn't so very different from him. There are lines which would be a little cringeworthy in a beginner's effort, and are simply baffling coming from someone with St Aubyn's proven abilities: "Punctuality and control mattered to him immensely – perhaps because part of him was so out of control." And if you somehow make it through all that, there are weird stylistic choices to trip you up. Never outside a Jonathan Hickman comic have I seen such a promiscuous use of italics – company names, project names, academic chairs, even Agent Orange, which is more distractingly weird than you might think. Compared to which, the capitalisation is almost restrained, despite extending to the likes of Red and Fallow deer. Kraftwerk appear, so pop music is in play, and yet there's also a shrink called Martin Carr without the name seeming to carry any intentional significance – there's not even a reference to one of his patients making giant steps in their treatment. Of course, those complaints that fiction wasn't addressing environmental concerns always ignored the talking squid in the room, because science fiction had been doing that for decades. Still is, obviously, though there remains a convincing case that John Brunner wrote the definitive Anthropocene novels half a century ago. You could make a case that Double Blind is science fiction too, the awkward, closeted sort, certainly once we get into the side of the plot dealing with consciousness, in which the tech company have not only imaged the brain states of a saintly, silent Franciscan, but can replicate them, and plan to market a headset which will enable purchasers to partake of his ecstasy. At the very least, the mention of a cruciform MRI machine suggests the SF-adjacent, Pynchon-influenced end of litfic, the sort of thing the younger Will Self might have carried off. Nowadays, Francis Spufford can carry off this research-heavy fiction and make it sing. On stage, maybe Stoppard, to whom these big questions in drawing room drag are meat and drink – though even he struggled with the theme of consciousness, or at least I think he did - of all his plays The Hard Problem is the one about which I find it hardest to remember anything bar the set. And this, interestingly, is precisely the terrain where Double Blind manages most of its successes, perhaps because the curious inner workings of the mind were precisely the terrain where the Melrose novels triumphed – and if it's now being seen from outside rather than in, that familiarity with the ground still gives St Aubyn something he can work with. There's some good stuff on the implausibility of determined efforts to treat schizophrenia as genetic – and yes, even here you perhaps wonder whether these are real conversations which would happen outside a professional setting, but it at least catches the right note of insular chat more often than the ecological material. There are little passages that remind us what St Aubyn can do as a prose stylist when he's not selling his birthright for a pot of message, whether it be in the descriptions of Howorth, the novel's wild Knepp stand-in, or the train journey through London's gradual suburban fade-out. I love the line "what is a theory, after all, except an incredibly stable anecdote? And what is a fact, except an incredibly stable theory?" There's an excellent chapter hinged on the parallel between unwelcome horniness and the fungus which drives ants to suicidal behaviour. I even have some sympathy with the general argument about irreducibility, whether that applies regarding mind to brain, planned ecologies, or the unspoken link between the two. And yet I still can't help feeling that, as a whole, this is like the way 19th century writers would produce the novels about people that people still read, then end up in a sand-trap writing thinly animated pamphlets about panpsychism, which were received with puzzlement then, and for which game attempts at re-evaluation never quite land now. (Publisher freebie off the back of a market research panel, like book YouGov basically. Need one declare that? I'll err on the side of transparency)

  17. 4 out of 5

    Andrea

    I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Edward St. Aubyn is a master wordsmith. The language did not disappoint. The setting: back and forth between continents [Europe/London/British countryside and the United States/California] and its [too] numerous characters. Olivia [a biologist]--and her new lover, Francis [a naturalist who lives off the grid]. Olivia's best friend, Lucy [a scientist], newly hired by the tech tycoon Hunter, who has a proclivity for drugs. Lucy's I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Edward St. Aubyn is a master wordsmith. The language did not disappoint. The setting: back and forth between continents [Europe/London/British countryside and the United States/California] and its [too] numerous characters. Olivia [a biologist]--and her new lover, Francis [a naturalist who lives off the grid]. Olivia's best friend, Lucy [a scientist], newly hired by the tech tycoon Hunter, who has a proclivity for drugs. Lucy's parents--both psychoanalysts--one of his patients, Sebastian, provides another subplot. Add in pregnancy, the Roman Catholic church, cancer/tumors, genetics, drugs, business/science competition, sexual attraction, family, ethics, schizophrenia, and more. Phew. Many oddball minor characters pop in and out--to wit, Marcel Qing [French/Chinese], Sir William Moorhead, Saul Prokosh, Hope Schwartz, and Father Guido [so strange] and Cardinal Lagerfeld--[another subplot--involving science]. And many strange names for places and projects which I'm sure have double meanings as does the siginficant title. Some of the phrases just struck me: "pale radiance of the morning" "pallid cheerfulness" "undulation of autumnal hills" "her body was sinisterly flexible" A very few instances of humor--much appreciated. And I had to look up several words: mycorrhizal, aurocs, porphyria, amygdala, to name a few. 3.5 but not rounding up because just too much. And, confession: much of the science parts bored me.

  18. 5 out of 5

    David C Ward

    Quite good. Like most cynics, St Aubyn is a romantic, even a sentimentalist at heart. Scientists and capitalists trying to figure out the meaning of life and it turns out you just have to be good to your friends. St A is an excellent satirist whether his target is a rather over earnest young botanist, academics who want to be rich and famous, or the Vatican’s plan to market a virtual reality stations of the cross. But he’s good to his friends: especially the wonderful portrait of the schizophren Quite good. Like most cynics, St Aubyn is a romantic, even a sentimentalist at heart. Scientists and capitalists trying to figure out the meaning of life and it turns out you just have to be good to your friends. St A is an excellent satirist whether his target is a rather over earnest young botanist, academics who want to be rich and famous, or the Vatican’s plan to market a virtual reality stations of the cross. But he’s good to his friends: especially the wonderful portrait of the schizophrenic Sebastian (like the saint). As Sebastian says, I’ve had enough diversity, I want coherence. While the science talk is a little lecture-y, there’s a very sympathetic Franciscan priest, a lot of comic set pieces, and the right people get their comeuppance. The ending is quietly perfect.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Sarah :)

    Thoroughly enjoyable, though it finished a little soon. The author went on a lot of tangents that I found very interesting, but if the general naturalist sensibility isn't your thing, it might be boring. Thoroughly enjoyable, though it finished a little soon. The author went on a lot of tangents that I found very interesting, but if the general naturalist sensibility isn't your thing, it might be boring.

  20. 5 out of 5

    GONZA

    A strange book, in which the first part seems 'normal', the second takes a peculiar turn, bordering on the ridiculous, and the third returns to being a mix between normal and excessive. Not that the book is not a pleasant read, but the author's purpose is not clear to me, so much so that it is one of those books that I catalogue among those that do not begin and do not end. Strano libro, in cui la prima parte sembra "normale" la second prende una piega particolare, al limite del ridicolo e la te A strange book, in which the first part seems 'normal', the second takes a peculiar turn, bordering on the ridiculous, and the third returns to being a mix between normal and excessive. Not that the book is not a pleasant read, but the author's purpose is not clear to me, so much so that it is one of those books that I catalogue among those that do not begin and do not end. Strano libro, in cui la prima parte sembra "normale" la second prende una piega particolare, al limite del ridicolo e la terza torna ad essere un mix tra normale ed eccessivo. Non che il libro non sia una piacevole lettura, ma lo scopo dell'autore non mi é chiaro, tant'é che é uno di quei libri che catalogo tra quelli che non cominciano e non finiscono. I RECEIVED A COMPLIMENTARY DIGITAL ADVANCED REVIEW COPY FROM THE PUBLISHER IN EXCHAGE FOR A HONEST REVIEW!

  21. 5 out of 5

    Anni

    In a departure from his usual style, Edward St, Aubyn has written an ambitious, issue-driven novel chronicling topical concerns such as climate change, biological determinism and gene therapy. Sending up the audacity of the modern scientific approach for solving our current ‘global malaise’ - and our failure to reconcile the uncertainties of life with our human expectations - he satirises the theories of neuroscientists, physicists, geneticists and psychotherapists, to name but a few, with his m In a departure from his usual style, Edward St, Aubyn has written an ambitious, issue-driven novel chronicling topical concerns such as climate change, biological determinism and gene therapy. Sending up the audacity of the modern scientific approach for solving our current ‘global malaise’ - and our failure to reconcile the uncertainties of life with our human expectations - he satirises the theories of neuroscientists, physicists, geneticists and psychotherapists, to name but a few, with his mesmerising prose. This is the second novel that I’ve read by this author (Lost for Words was the first) and it has inspired me to read his back catalogue.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Ellison

    “Science is a subset of human nature and not the other way around. It has its own oppressive sociology of funding and peer review and publication and profit, and it shares all the emotions of rivalry, intuition, conformity, anxiety and generosity that inform every other field of activity.”

  23. 4 out of 5

    Leslie Ann

    Not many of the narrative arcs are resolved by the end, but I enjoyed the ride because of the accurate description of cellular biology and sometimes sublime prose (narrated by the brilliant Benedict Cumberbatch). I also liked the shout-outs to Filipino nurses and Siddhartha Mukherjee. Not many of the narrative arcs are resolved by the end, but I enjoyed the ride because of the accurate description of cellular biology and sometimes sublime prose (narrated by the brilliant Benedict Cumberbatch). I also liked the shout-outs to Filipino nurses and Siddhartha Mukherjee.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Masha Gurova

    Disappointing to be honest. As much as I love Patrick Melrose books and I really wanted to like this one, I had to drag myself through the non existing plot and bleak characters. Meh

  25. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Glass

    I actually really genuinely wanted to enjoy this book, and was prepared to overlook much of its immediately obvious pretension. Unfortunately, its treatment of the central themes of climate change and environmentalism were about what you would expect from a white british author whose wikipedia bio is littered with dukes and lords and barons, casual racism included. It felt a lot like being trapped in a tutorial with an overly confident student who has undoubtedly read widely on a lot of social, I actually really genuinely wanted to enjoy this book, and was prepared to overlook much of its immediately obvious pretension. Unfortunately, its treatment of the central themes of climate change and environmentalism were about what you would expect from a white british author whose wikipedia bio is littered with dukes and lords and barons, casual racism included. It felt a lot like being trapped in a tutorial with an overly confident student who has undoubtedly read widely on a lot of social, political, and scientific concepts, but is always just short of the degree of critical insight needed to transform it all into something real. I made it 67 pages.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Ula Tardigrade

    I liked a lot "Patrick Melrose" novels so I was very eager to read this new one but it is an altogether different creature. After finishing it I am still not sure what to think. In Edward St. Aubyn's most famous novels, his focus was on people and their emotions and feelings, in particular the eponymous Patrick. Here, I have an impression that it is rather a long essay than a proper novel. There are far too many characters to feel a true attachment to any of them, and in some ways, they are rathe I liked a lot "Patrick Melrose" novels so I was very eager to read this new one but it is an altogether different creature. After finishing it I am still not sure what to think. In Edward St. Aubyn's most famous novels, his focus was on people and their emotions and feelings, in particular the eponymous Patrick. Here, I have an impression that it is rather a long essay than a proper novel. There are far too many characters to feel a true attachment to any of them, and in some ways, they are rather cliches than potentially existing people - sometimes I had the impression that it is a satire, playing with stereotypes and tropes. Nevertheless, I liked very much other aspects, because it is full of interesting reflections on ecology, neuroscience, psychology, and other topics - and it is, as always, brilliantly written. Thanks to the publisher, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, and NetGalley for the advance copy of this book.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Sofie De Smyter

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. A 2.5, at a pinch - a classic St Aubyn, in a way, too classic: too many ideas, too little character, too much of the same old same old (we know them by know, the stoned self-centred.... (fill in the gap)). Some really memorable dialogues and one-liners though but they get swamped by men trying to sound smart, throwing pseudo-wisdoms around to hide their utter lack of personality. And what's with Francis? Evolves from a genuinely good guy to a cunt-struck asshole - pardon my French - without any A 2.5, at a pinch - a classic St Aubyn, in a way, too classic: too many ideas, too little character, too much of the same old same old (we know them by know, the stoned self-centred.... (fill in the gap)). Some really memorable dialogues and one-liners though but they get swamped by men trying to sound smart, throwing pseudo-wisdoms around to hide their utter lack of personality. And what's with Francis? Evolves from a genuinely good guy to a cunt-struck asshole - pardon my French - without any kind of motive or context. Benedict Cumberbatch does an impressive Audiobook job though.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Hannah Swanwick

    this book made me hate myself for enjoying it but then I stopped enjoying it and it made the self flagulation easier

  29. 4 out of 5

    Steve Betz

    St. Aubyn turns his scrutiny of the well-to-do from the English aristocrats of Patrick Melrose to something a little closer to home for me: scientists, naturalists, tech workers, and the people that fund them. Double Blind follows the intersecting stories of two friends, Lucy and Olivia, and the men in their lives. Olivia falls for a naturalist working to head off environmental disaster, while Lucy ends up working for a Silicon Valley titan who has his fingers in every sort of scientific pot (thi St. Aubyn turns his scrutiny of the well-to-do from the English aristocrats of Patrick Melrose to something a little closer to home for me: scientists, naturalists, tech workers, and the people that fund them. Double Blind follows the intersecting stories of two friends, Lucy and Olivia, and the men in their lives. Olivia falls for a naturalist working to head off environmental disaster, while Lucy ends up working for a Silicon Valley titan who has his fingers in every sort of scientific pot (think Elon Musk, but a little less crazy). With a sort of deadpan delivery, St. Aubyn makes it clear that we're all royally f****d, but that doesn't stop the idealism of both the earnest and the ultra-wealthy. In medicine, if a clinical trial is "double blind" it means neither the clinician nor the patient know if they've received the treatment or a placebo -- essentially moving forward without knowing what's going on behind the scenes -- and there are elements of that idea threaded through the events of this novel. The book itself is worth reading for its prose and I found myself hoping that it had gone on a little longer and had a little more of a defined climax, but maybe that was part of the point here.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Judith

    I love this author and I love books about very rich and very smart people. These are the kind of people who invest in huge portions of the Amazon rain forest, not to exploit it, but simply to protect it from exploitation. I learned a lot from this book. The problem was twofold: the print was so tiny that it strained my eyes to read it so I had to read it only during daytime hours with bright natural light. Secondly, a lot of the concepts were over my head. If you can make sense of this sentence I love this author and I love books about very rich and very smart people. These are the kind of people who invest in huge portions of the Amazon rain forest, not to exploit it, but simply to protect it from exploitation. I learned a lot from this book. The problem was twofold: the print was so tiny that it strained my eyes to read it so I had to read it only during daytime hours with bright natural light. Secondly, a lot of the concepts were over my head. If you can make sense of this sentence at first glance then this book's for you. But even if you can't there's a great sub-plot for dolts like me. "Space, instead of being a desolate interval between pinpricks of sentience, must be the conscious medium in which these more obvious forms of consciousness were concentrated. If matter was not inherently conscious, then one had to fall back on the official story that the pinpricks of sentience existed in an otherwise inanimate universe thanks to a mind-numbingly long poker game in which the elements of the Periodic Table had been dealt out again and again until one bit of deadness haphazardly acquired the Full House of life, and then only a few million hands later, the Royal Flush of consciousness."

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