Andrew is a cognitive scientist speaking to an unknown person, perhaps his psychiatrist, about his life. Andrew is an unreliable narrator, for at the end of the novel we find he cannot have been where he reports himself as having been (that is, if we believe the end of the novel). Further, he asserts several times that he has no emotions, when that is plainly untrue.
The novel begins with his story of abandoning his infant daughter after his second wife’s tragic death by giving her to his first wife Martha. Many of his reminiscences have to do with his actions being inadvertently destructive, but he also concentrates on his relationship with his much younger second wife, Briony.
In the midst of his stories he provides us with information about the workings of the brain and seems fascinated by the idea that scientists could one day manufacture a brain with consciousness. The novel poses questions about such subjects as whether free will exists, what composes consciousness, whether memory is reliable, but little nuggets about the workings of the brain are from relatively basic neuroscience, which does not leave me convinced that the observations are actually those of a scientist.
The turn the novel takes at the end is suddenly political and absurdist, and it has almost nothing to do with the rest of the book. Are we to believe Andrew’s story, or is he delusional (perhaps even a manufactured consciousness)? As I mentioned before, in one part of the novel he apparently phones his interlocutor to tell him he is living in a farmhouse with some people about whom he had at one time dreamed. At another point he is apparently writing a letter from a cabin high above a Norwegian fjord. When we finally learn what are supposed to be his actual circumstances, those reported two places of residence are plainly impossible.
In any case, although this novel is interesting enough, it is ultimately unsatisfying and feels almost like a joke the author is playing on us.
Full disclosure: I received this novel free as a giveaway from Goodreads.