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Sweet Tooth [Paperback]

Ian McEwan
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (405 customer reviews)
RRP: 7.99
Price: 3.85 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Hardcover 15.19  
Paperback 3.85  
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Book Description

9 May 2013

From the bestselling author of Atonement and Enduring Love comes 'A web of spying, subterfuge, deceit and betrayal... Acute, witty...winningly cunning' Sunday Times

The year is 1972. The Cold War is far from over. Britain is being torn apart by industrial unrest and terrorism. Serena Frome, in her final year at Cambridge, is being groomed for MI5.

Serena is sent on a secret mission - Operation Sweet Tooth - which brings her into the world of Tom Haley, a promising young writer. First she loves his stories, then she begins to love the man. Can she maintain the fiction of her undercover life? And who is inventing whom? To answer these questions, Serena must abandon the first rule of espionage - trust no one.


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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (9 May 2013)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 0099578786
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099578789
  • Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 13 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (405 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,897 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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.

Product Description

Review

"Enthralling, beguiling and totally addictive from the first page to the last. McEwan's sense of time and place is authentic with his trademark attention to details of the social history of the period" (Bristol Magazine)

"A brilliant portrayal of 1970s Britain at its absolute worst. But it's also a gripping spy novel with some characteristic McEwan twists toward the end" (Mail on Sunday)

"Riveting... Delicious... Gripping" (Guardian)

"Sweet Tooth takes the expectations and tropes of the Cold War thriller and ratchets up the suspense, while turning it into something else... A well-crafted pleasure to read, its smooth prose and slippery intelligence sliding down like cream" (Amanda Craig Independent)

"A thoroughly clever novel...a sublime novel about novels, about writing them and reading them and the spying that goes on in doing both...very impressive...rich and enjoyable" (Lucy Kellaway Financial Times)

Book Description

The Number One bestseller from the author of Atonement and Enduring Love: Sweet Tooth is a story of love and espionage in 1970s Britain

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
45 of 47 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
McEwan's latest novel charts the progress of Serena Frome from the seat of her father's bishopric, via a mathematics degree at Cambridge, to a junior role in MI5 during the 1970s. Much of the novel is taken up with her romantic engagements, professional disappointments and love of literature until all of them become bound together in a single operation, Sweet Tooth.

There are writers -like Martin Amis, who appears as a minor character in this novel- who excel at writing gorgeous, funny, efficient prose and who create engaging characters but struggle to package it into a wholly satisfying novel. McEwen is at the other end of the spectrum; the complex structures of his novels are marvellously articulated but the tone and characters feel cold and, consequently, can leave the reader a little apathetic.

It comes as no surprise, therefore, that this novel only really seems to catch light in the latter third, when the plot (and the obligatory twist) accelerate and come to the fore. In comparison, the more prosaic early chapters seem to drag. There is some interest to be had from the minutiae of the security services, considerations on literature and a nice evocation of the winter of discontent. Nevertheless, I found it difficult to warm to Serena, who is so central to the novel and whose tribulations struck me as mundane and her insecurities annoying rather than endearing. There were also few tics in her first person narrative (repeated phrases, the sex descriptions) that seemed careless.
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81 of 86 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Clever 22 Sep 2012
By John Tierney VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I wasn't convinced by McEwan's attempt at humour in Solar and this is very much a return to what I think he is good at. The story of Serena Frome (rhymes with plume!) and narrated by her, it tells of her progression from studying maths at Cambridge (whilst nurturing her real passion for literature) to her recruitment by MI5 in the early 70s. MI5 at that time is very much a male-dominated organisation and the women recruited are given mostly admin tasks. Serena has left a relationship with an older married man at Cambridge (who groomed her for MI5) and is attracted to Max, a senior colleague at work. But her life changes when she is given a real assignment - managing a young author, Tom Haley, who MI5 believe to have the right (sic) tendencies to write the type of thing they like i.e. anti-communist essays and novels. Serena persuades Tom to accept funding (with its real source hidden) to support his work, but things are (somewhat predictably) complicated as she is immediately attracted to him and vice versa. From then it's only a matter of time before things start to unravel and although the novel is not exciting as such, the prose is extremely taut and is fairly un-putdownable.

I was concerned early on in the book that there was a lot of writing about writing going on, something I detest. And there are a lot of references to books and authors - there is even a very famous author who has a part in the book, although we never "see" him directly. But eventually I was won over by how McEwan meshes the plot, discussions about literature and even some short stories (including one about the Monty Hall problem (worth googling) and how it might - and might not - be the source of a short story about infidelity.
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149 of 169 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Manipulation of Truth 22 Aug 2012
By Susie B TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
It is the early seventies, and Serena Frome, the very attractive daughter of an Anglican bishop, is working towards a degree in mathematics at Cambridge, after being coerced into studying maths by her quietly ambitious mother, instead of studying English as she would have preferred. Serena, who has always been a compulsive and voracious reader, finds herself struggling with the standard of maths expected of her at Cambridge and looks elsewhere for her enjoyment, burying herself in her books and looking for romance. In her final year, she meets Tony Canning, her boyfriend's tutor, a much older, married man and they enter into a short, but passionate affair, part of which involves Tony grooming Serena for the intelligence service.

Serena manages to get through the screening process for the British Intelligence Service and starts working for MI5 in a very junior position; however she is keen to improve her prospects and when, through her knowledge of literature, she is assigned to an operation called 'Sweet Tooth' she is eager to prove her worth. Serena learns that MI5 have set up a cultural foundation to secretly support writers who speak out against communism and she is to act as a representative of the foundation. In her pose, Serena is to encourage a young writer, Tom Haley, to leave his post in academia and be supported by the foundation to enable him to write full time, but he must remain unaware that the funding is coming from MI5. Serena is initially successful in her mission, but when she becomes intellectually, physically and then emotionally involved with Haley, she finds leading a double life is much more difficult and less exciting than she had imagined and she also discovers that this is where the lines between truth and fiction become blurred.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars what a compelling read. Well written, kept me ...
what a compelling read. Well written, kept me wanting to turn pages and altogether a bit of nonsense at the end.
Published 1 day ago by Jen
2.0 out of 5 stars Not sure what the point of this book is - ...
Not sure what the point of this book is - had to force myself to keep going to the end although it did get easier! Read more
Published 3 days ago by B Whincup
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting book
I really really enjoyed this book and the twist at the end. As a writer myself, it was so interesting to learn from Mr McEwan. Read more
Published 7 days ago by Laynee
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
very good story line gripping
Published 9 days ago by Patricia Turnbull
1.0 out of 5 stars collapsing book
Like Ian McEwan's books and enjoyed this unusual story, but unfortunately the book fell apart at the seams! The pages came unstuck which made reading it difficult.
Published 18 days ago by froggy
5.0 out of 5 stars another cracker from McEwan
McEwan never disappoints, Sweet Tooth is that wonderful blend of a brilliantly written ingenious tale, I didn't want to put it down!
Published 26 days ago by anniephiz
4.0 out of 5 stars Very clever novel
At first, I wasn't sure about this novel; the central character didn't seem to be developing very well on the page. That improved, for reasons that were made clear as I read on . . Read more
Published 29 days ago by JeniP
5.0 out of 5 stars Fairly zips along
A very readable sendup of Cold War attitudes with a believable female heroine. No idea of its accuracy regarding MI5 but it feels as if it rings true, as does the portrayal of the... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Isabel Wilkinson
4.0 out of 5 stars Not his best, but still interesting.
One of the most surprising (and slightly conceited!) aspects of this novel is McEwan's use of his own short story plot lines as examples of Tom Haley's writing talent. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Skipjack
3.0 out of 5 stars the end is worth the wait
I nice book with great narrative that transports you to the greyness of the early 70's. This sometimes feels a little bit like over padding and drops the suspense from the story... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Billy Murray
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