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Amsterdam [Kindle Edition]

Ian McEwan
2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (121 customer reviews)

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Product Description Review

When good-time, fortysomething Molly Lane dies of an unspecified degenerative illness, her many friends and numerous lovers are led to think about their own mortality. Vernon Halliday, editor of the up-market newspaper The Judge, persuades his old friend Clive Linley, a self-indulgent composer of some reputation, to enter into a euthanasia pact with him. Should either of them succumb to such an illness, the other will effect his death. From this point onwards we are in little doubt as to the novel's outcome--it's only a matter of who will kill whom. In the meantime, compromising photographs of Molly's most distinguished lover, foreign secretary Julian Garmony, have found their way into the hands of the press, and as rumours circulate he teeters on the edge of disgrace. However, this is McEwan, so it is no surprise to find that the rather unsavoury Garmony comes out on top. McEwan is master of the writer's craft, and while this is the sort of novel that wins prizes, his characters remain curiously soulless amidst the twists and turns of plot. --Lisa Jardine


“with Alan Bates reading, HarperCollins has scored a palpable hit that captures perfectly the McEwan menace.”
Times 5/12/98

“Alan Bates has the luxury of an unedited text, which he delivers in a rich, fruity timbre, with both ease and pleasure.”
Observer 17/1/99

“Deliciously sharply written, this tale of moral dilemmas is superbly read by Alan Bates.”
Express 19/12/98

“Bates conveys that he is enjoying the book, especially the tightly realised descriptive passages and the racy narrative.”
Financial Times 12/12/98

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 435 KB
  • Print Length: 210 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0385494246
  • Publisher: Vintage Digital; New Ed edition (11 Mar 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099272776
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099272779
  • ASIN: B00351YF1G
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (121 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #46,373 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Ian McEwan is a critically acclaimed author of short stories and novels for adults, as well as The Daydreamer, a children's novel illustrated by Anthony Browne. His first published work, a collection of short stories, First Love, Last Rites, won the Somerset Maugham Award. His novels include The Child in Time, which won the 1987 Whitbread Novel of the Year Award, The Cement Garden, Enduring Love, Amsterdam, which won the 1998 Booker Prize, Atonement, Saturday and On Chesil Beach.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Cold in Amsterdam 25 Feb 2007
Ian McEwan is, without a doubt, one of the greatest writers of dark fiction today. But his novella "Amsterdam" is something of a misfire, reading more like the sluggishly-filled-out outline for a novel rather than a novel itself. While it has the seeds of genius, his usual introspection and depth is both missing and sorely missed.

Molly Lane is dead, her mind and body wrecked by an unspecified disease. Now her assorted lovers and friends reunite one last time, including Molly's ex-boyfriends Clive and Vernon, respectively a prominent composer and a not-so-respected newspaper editor. Because of Molly, they are friends -- and they enter into a pact because of her death.

But things go awry when Vernon gets his hands on photos of the Foreign Secretary Julian Garmony, cross-dressing and photographed by Molly. Eager to bring down Garmony and bring up his readership, Vernon wants to publish the photos in his newspaper; Clive is disgusted by this, yet he allows a rapist and murderer to go free for the sake of his musical inspiration. Which man is worse?

"Amsterdam" is like a city in winter: pretty at a distance but rather empty and cold when you walk through it. In theory it has all the elements needed for a great novel, but it feels vaguely unfinished, as if McEwan was expanding an outline into a full-fledged novel but somehow never finished the job.

The characters are lacking in the complexity found in most of McEwan's other books, where many dimensions can be found. Clive is almost impossible to connect with; Vernon is more understandable, given his waning career. But if these characters aren't really connectable, McEwan uses them to make us look at morality, hypocrisy, and where our bad intentions can lead us.
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28 of 34 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A contrived plot ruins the story 1 Mar 2002
Ian McEwan is Britain's leading literary artist, so anything he publishes should be greeted with enthusiasm. However, this is a disappointment. This is a story of two men: one is a composer, Clive Linley, who is busy writing a symphony; and the other is a newspaper editor, Vernon Halliday, who publishes a series of photos in order to ruin a right-wing politician's career. A mutual lover, Molly Lane, who has since died, took the pictures. To publish them, Linley believes, would be to besmirch the memory of Molly Lane, whom they both loved. They fall out and their friendship sours; eventually, after a series of misunderstandings, themselves plot contrivances, turning to hatred. I won't give away the ending. I will only say that it is ridiculous. McEwan should read more Ian Banks to see how to develop clever but plausible twists to his endings. Failing that, just read a couple of Agatha Christies.
There is a lot that is good in this novel. The characterisation of the two main protagonists is excellent, and the description of the creative process of a composer is marvellous, but this does not save the book. The story fails totally to engage.
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20 of 25 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Contrived and pointless 23 July 2005
By A Customer
When I finished this book, I was left in shock. I was absolutely speechless, dumbstruck. "Is that it?" I thought. "This won the Booker Prize?" It made no sense. I'd never disliked a Booker Prize winner before. How could this one be so awful?
Then I read some of the reviews on Amazon and realised I was by no means alone. I actually enjoyed wooblywoobly's review (below) more than I enjoyed the book. It's not that Amsterdam is unreadable. McEwan's prose is light and accessible. But this novel is completely and utterly wrecked by it's horribly contrived plot. And I mean *wrecked*. It is shallow, unconvincing and feels rushed - ironically just like the music composed by the character Clive.
We're supposed to believe that these two typical middle class men, Clive and Vernon (a composer and a newspaper editor), could enter into a euthanasia pact and then attempt follow it through without any good reason to do so. They fall out and suddenly murder is on the cards. Does this sound like any typical middle class men you know? I do hope not. It is the most contrived story I have ever read.
This plot might have held together if McEwan had managed to include some kind of significant character development in the novel. But it's not there. The characters don't visibly descend into madness. They are completely soulless and their story is told with dry, suspenseless narration throughout.
Avoid this book!
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars At least it's short 18 Feb 2006
I bought Amsterdam at an airport bookshop for less than perfect literary reasons - price, pockability and not being The Da Vinci Code. I finished it in a day and a half, which isn't like me and is probably, in part, a testament to the lucidity of McEwan's prose. The first fifty or so pages make an intriguing set-up, and I rather enjoyed his description of Clive's creative process, so I was looking forward to finding out about the 'disastrous moral decision' each man was about to make.
And after that, as others here have said, it all goes horribly, predictably, unconvincingly, pointlessly wrong. The conclusion is less 'blow to the gut' than 'I can see how this will end and I've still got 100 pages (out of 180) to go'. I've enjoyed McEwan before and had high hopes of this but it really isn't worth even the short time it takes to read it.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Always enjoy reading his books but this is not among my favourites.
Published 18 days ago by Shirley Harrington
2.0 out of 5 stars This won the Booker Prize? Really?
I am a great admirer of Ian McEwan, having enjoyed "Sweet Tooth" and "The Innocent". But this novel is just mediocre. Read more
Published 29 days ago by C Perkes
2.0 out of 5 stars Farcical
It's difficult to take this book seriously. It reads like a farce about three middle-aged former lovers of a recently deceased woman who have an ambiguous relationship among... Read more
Published 2 months ago by John Fitzpatrick
2.0 out of 5 stars Transparent
Fortunately this was short so I don't feel like I wasted much of my time but it was still a waste. The plot is so transparent you know what is going to happen before you've reached... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Cece de la Vela
5.0 out of 5 stars A Greek Tragedy
I enjoyed this immensely; a story with the elements of greek tragedy - characters full of their own success and importance (hubris) and then a plot race to the tragi-comic ending... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Henry Morris
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply elegant
The link between all the characters is Molly, yet this story starts with her funeral. Her ghostly presence is forever present through the memories of the characters. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Tracey Madeley
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing
I was a huge fan of Enduring Love and with Amsterdam being one of McEwan's most highly rated works, I was expecting more. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Discerning Reader/Viewer
3.0 out of 5 stars Bit boring
I ordered this book as it was a monthly 'read' selection at a book group. Found the characters a bit boring and didn't really enjoy it. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Julie in Staffordshire
4.0 out of 5 stars Music in Amsterdam
Ian McEwan's novel "Amsterdam" begins with the death of a married woman, Molly Lane, who has had many lovers. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Robin Friedman
5.0 out of 5 stars again this was a Xmas gift for my son
I read the book years ago, recently reread it and decided it would be enjoyed by my son and I hear it was...
Published 6 months ago by jean helen ramm
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Popular Highlights

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A sense of scale habituated to the daily perspectives of rooms and streets was suddenly affronted by a colossal emptiness. &quote;
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These types – novelists were by far the worst – managed to convince friends and families that not only their working hours, but every nap and stroll, every fit of silence, depression or drunkenness bore the exculpatory ticket of high intent. A mask for mediocrity, was Clive’s view. &quote;
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As far as the welfare of every other living form on earth was concerned, the human project was not just a failure, it was a mistake from the very beginning. &quote;
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