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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
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 (nemesis). Reading it went by all to fast.
Published 4 months ago by Henry Morris

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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Cold in Amsterdam
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...
Published on 25 Feb 2007 by E. A Solinas


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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Cold in Amsterdam, 25 Feb 2007
By 
E. A Solinas "ea_solinas" (MD USA) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Amsterdam (Hardcover)
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.

Aside from the characters, the prose is simple and straightforward: it describes what the characters do, but very little of what they think. As a result, some of the actions -- such as Clive watching a woman being attacked -- seem almost random. But in places, such as Mrs. Garmony's public speech about her husband and Vernon, his brilliance shines forth, and the entire ending is lit up by the irony.

So while an acceptable novel by most standards, it's perhaps the least of McEwan's works thus far. Has its moments of pure brilliance, but in large patches, it's dreary and empty.
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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
By 
Penguin Egg (London, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Amsterdam (Paperback)
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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3.0 out of 5 stars What happened to the ending?, 22 Jan 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Amsterdam (Hardcover)
This book is a really enjoyable read right up until the last few pages. Dealing with the choices made in life and the consequences of them, McEwan's characters are horribly realistic and familiar - and therefore not particularly endearing. Full of conceit and self-dillusionment, Clive and Vernon become less and less attractive as the book goes on, to the point where by the end we don't particularly care what happens to them. But even if they do not deserve a good ending, surely the reader does. Without saying what happens, it is fair to say the novel descends into farce and the reader is cheated of the ending, the quality of writing in the rest of the book promoised. Overall, it is highly debateable whether the undoubtable high standard of the first part of the book is worth the let-down at the end. Read this....but only if you've nothing else lying around.
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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
By 
will_de_beest (South Oxfordshire) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Amsterdam (Paperback)
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Greek Tragedy, 1 April 2014
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This review is from: Amsterdam (Kindle Edition)
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 (nemesis). Reading it went by all to fast.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A two-dimensional disappointment, 5 Jan 2004
By 
This review is from: Amsterdam (Paperback)
Considering the subtlety with which most readers associate McEwan, this is a clumsy, cartoony and slightly cheesy story. Had I not known who had written it, I don't think I would have automatically thought of McEwan.
The characters are poorly drawn and completely unlikeable. His dissection of the British news industry has been written better in many other novels. Admittedly, his writing about music composition is insightful and clever.
A fair book but he has written so much better elsewhere
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20 of 26 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Contrived and pointless, 23 July 2005
By A Customer
This review is from: Amsterdam (Paperback)
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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17 of 22 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars How did this end up a Booker Prize winner?, 2 Oct 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Amsterdam (Paperback)
Usually I look to the Booker Prize if I want to discover new novel by authors I do not automatically read - so I picked up "Amsterdam". What a huge disappointment. The plot is nicely executed - and I mean *executed*. While "Amsterdam" may be well-structured and plotted, the very contrived and overtly 'plotted' plot does undo the novel itself. Technically well-written, but should've remained an unpublished experiment. I hope this book isn't symptomatic for McEwan. I'm certainly not rushing out to read more of his novels.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Well written but lacking in substance, 18 Dec 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: Amsterdam (Hardcover)
This booked was well written: it was easy to become absorbed in McEwan's world of newspaper editor's and orchestral composers, but I felt it was lacking as a whole. The characters were fascinating, but they were only just touched upon. The end was predictable from the middle, but the final moments were highly amusing. I read this book and felt like I had just watched The Truman Show: an excellent concept, but there was no real substance.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Thoughtful ideology but shallow everything else, 2 Nov 2009
By 
M. K. Burton - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Amsterdam (Paperback)
When Molly Lane dies, two of her friends meet outside a crematorium to express both their remorse and their view of Molly's last days. Clive Linley and Vernon Halliday are a pair of extremely successful men who at one point or another had an affair with Molly. Molly died in what they consider a horrible way; she just started to lose it suddenly, became ill, and required her long-suffering husband to nurse her. Clive, the most famous composer of his age, and Vernon, editor of a top newspaper, make a pact after Molly's death that rebounds against them in a way they'd never expected.

On the back cover, this is described as "a sharp contemporary morality tale, cleverly disguised as a comic novel", and I can't say it better than that. The comedy to me appears to come from how ridiculous these men are, how they are so wrapped up in themselves that they can't hear and don't care about the outside world at all. By the end of the novel, they have each truly become like Molly, lost to the world without realizing what has happened to them. They've been overtaken by an illness, and that illness is, according to Ian McEwan, the ills of public society and the selfishness that it takes to ignore the needs and wellbeing of fellow humans while taking care of number one. The disturbing thing is that neither of them realize it; what they're doing is so normal to them that they don't understand what's wrong. They think they're adding to society when really they're just adding to the problem.

Anyway, in that way, this novel is so deep in so few pages that it's hard to say whether or not I liked it. This is one of those books that I want a class on. There's a lot here to pick at and just writing that paragraph above has helped me clarify it in my mind. I think I could write a paper on it. It's less than two hundred pages long, so it didn't take me very long to read, but it packs in so much thought-provoking material in with the ridiculousness of the situation. The worst part is that, when dissected, the behavior of neither of the characters is ridiculous. They're doing what has been done countless times before and that is eerie and worrying, especially given the extreme dislike I felt for both of them by the end of the novel. Really the problem with the novel is that it isn't a very good story. The story and the characters exist only to prove McEwan's point, which is a strong one, but it doesn't work very well at a surface level.

In conclusion, there is a very good reason that Amsterdam won the Booker Prize. It's a truly haunting commentary on society that still manages to be slightly ridiculous enough to make it interesting. I haven't even touched on all the issues here, but I can tell I'm going to continue thinking about this for some time to come. It isn't as good as a book as Atonement is, in my humble opinion, particularly because it is shallow in everything but its overall meaning. I still think it's worth a read.
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Amsterdam
Amsterdam by Ian McEwan (Paperback - 2005)
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