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3.0 out of 5 stars
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on 18 June 2015
As elegantly written as his other works but I found the end a little difficult to believe in. The plot or story is of course only part of what makes McEwan such a fantastic, enjoyable author and even allowing for my reservations, which I doubt are shared with others, he is stil miles ahead of most other contemporary novelists in the English language.
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on 20 August 2015
Lovely story although odd ending. But the best thing about this book is the writing. You can almost ignore the story as this is what beautiful writing looks like. It's just a pleasure to read, and is classical music for the eyes.
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on 13 May 2014
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 themselves and are united in hatred of her husband who, in turn, also hates them.

The characters are the typical London metropolitan types people like McEwan write about - a government minister, composer, journalist, publisher - with not a hint of reality about them.

After a lot of toing and froing around London, with a side trip to the Lake District where the composer witnesses what might be a rape but ignores it, the book ends in a hotel in Amsterdam where a poisoned glass of champagne takes center stage and the reader waits to see which of the characters will take it.

I half expected someone's trousers to fall down at one point just to keep the story going. Mercifully they did not and the whole thing is wrapped shortly and efficiently.

Only to be read if there is absolutely nothing else around.
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on 3 December 2013
I don't think Ian ever produces anything less than his best. It is a joy to read his literary skills, even if at times, some find him overindulging his talent a bit. Plot is important as is pace, but beautiful descriptive writing is for me becoming less easy to find in many new books. Thank you Ian.
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on 14 September 2012
I really can't understand why this novel won the Booker Prize.

It's trying to be typical Hardy-esque McEwan, in that one event changes everyone's lives - but the trouble is, the lives in question aren't particularly interesting. Drama is so desperately sought-after that it's impossible for any to be created.

The novel revolves around two characters, a journalist and a composer, joined by an inescapable past - apparently. They make an agreement at a funeral which eventually leads to a 'twist', although to be honest it's more like a loose tug with a lot of build-up.

McEwan's mixture of 'big' ideas with understated characters and plotlines doesn't really work here. There are a few good moments in the book but hardly good enough to constitute a Booker Prize.
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on 9 December 2013
I am a pretty picky reader - I don't like trashy novels, but I also find it hard to get through denser literature - and this novella finds a happy balance between a fun, fast-paced read and a novel of significant substance. I read it over the course of a few days while commuting to and from work, and looked forward to my commute because of it. There are some brilliant lines and plot twists, and the ending was satisfying. Ian McEwan's writing is imaginative, playful and devious, and this is one of my favorite books by him yet (I've also read Enduring Love, Saturday, Atonement and First Love, Last Rites).
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on 14 September 2013
Cover 3.0 Duel authors name and title nothing else. As my Uncle used to say "He was full of his own importance" Another BODOT book and my 100th review. Quite suitable I think. I must look along my shelves for the other Ian McEwans I liked better than this one which I am keeping to read again. Sorry Ian this one not one of the best. I notice £14.99 in this 1998 edition ... not good value then and may not even now.
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on 2 January 2014
There were times I was engaged in this, but what I like in McEwan is the way his stories fit together at the end. With Sweet Tooth and Atonement, there was something 'complete' about the book by the end. Not so, for me, with Amsterdam. The ending was to a degree predictable, and left me thinking: so what?
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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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VINE VOICEon 18 September 2013
I have given this 4/5 , but if I could would have given 3.5/5. The writing is superb in the main, but the plot loses plausibility in the service of achieving a darkly comic goal and seems too forced for my taste. It is well worth reading but not worth the worshipful plaudits it has received, nor the Booker; but then isn't that the Booker all over?
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