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Sweet Tooth Hardcover – 21 Aug 2012


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Jonathan Cape; 1st Edition edition (21 Aug. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0224097377
  • ISBN-13: 978-0224097376
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 3.2 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (466 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 80,586 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)

"No contemporary novelist is more enthralled by what goes on inside the human skull than Ian McEwan... Doubling back and forth across genre boundaries, Sweet Tooth takes risks...this acute, witty novel is a winningly cunning addition to McEwan’s fictional surveys of intelligence." (Peter Kemp Sunday Times)

"Playful, comic... This is a great big Russian doll of a novel, and in its construction – deft, tight, exhilaratingly immaculate – is a huge part of its pleasure." (Julie Myerson Observer)

"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

Love and espionage in 1970s Britain: a riveting new novel from the bestselling author of Atonement and Enduring Love

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

57 of 60 people found the following review helpful By TWBlount on 18 Oct. 2012
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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85 of 90 people found the following review helpful By John Tierney VINE VOICE on 22 Sept. 2012
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.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By LilacLemon on 10 April 2014
Format: Paperback
I loved everything about this book. It poses as a tale of espionage but in fact turns out to be so much more than that - it's about love and trust, about writing and reading. The world of politics and MI5, from its low level offices of monotonous paperwork to its more exciting side of undercover operations and employee betrayals, comes second to the tension and suspense built through the development of character relationships. The 1970s setting is superbly depicted and I found Serena Frome to be a very convincingly real protagonist, with a distinctive personality and background established from the beginning, whose thoughts and actions are always true to the attributes that McEwan bestows upon her. The nuances of her emotional journey are explored in impressive and affective detail, and consequently her story is so incredibly engaging that I longed to know what happened to her and her surrounding characters beyond the final page of the book. McEwan's prose is smooth and vivid, and the novel's final twist is ingenious.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Enobarbus on 1 Jun. 2013
Format: Paperback
If, like me, you regard "Atonement" as the high-water mark of McEwan's achievements and were comprehensively unimpressed by "Solar", you will probably spend most of your time reading "Sweet Tooth" concluding McEwan's lost it. With a central character who's a a woman working for M15, you might be expecting something quite new from McEwan, a spell-binding story of espionage, just to show he can be a master of the genre. But although there is plenty of rather clunkily researched historical and political detail, you will realise by page fifty, it is not going to be that kind of work. By page one hundred, you may well be wondering what kind of work it is, the writing being so mediocre, the narrative voice so unconvincing. A Mills and Boon, rather light on romance? Another novel about writing itself? Certainly nothing would persuade one to read on except respect for McEwan's pervious achievements and the hope that surely at some point things will be turned round in a witty and satisfying manner. Then we will see why the writing is so feeble, the characterisation so banal, the plot so predictable... Or has McEwan exhausted a modest talent which was always more about literary tricks than substance? Is this anything but hackwork, relying upon a loyal following to pay the bills? It is with some desperation that one reaches the very edge of the cliff which must surely overlook a fall from grace, a smashing of the idol... Everything depends upon the final chapter.

If at the end, one feels a modicum of relief, a qualified respect for the craftsman, a shiver of admiration for the gamble, the trick, does it amount to much more?
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