Customer Review

31 of 38 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully- written Nonsense, 6 Nov. 2012
This review is from: Sweet Tooth (Hardcover)
I am an avid fan of McEwan but I feel that like many of his generation - Banks and Swift, for example - he is struggling to come up with plotlines that make the reader care about the outcome. When I started this book I felt the familiar awe at the man's superlative craftsmanship. I also give him huge credit for continually coming up with totally new situations and scenarios around which to write his novels - he never falls into the trap of being formulaic. However, the novel itself, sadly, is bit of a dog's breakfast. As one who remembers the period well, I was quite fascinated to see him tackle this period of our history when the left wing of politics seemed to flirt a little too closely with the Communists and where otherwise sane people were promoting Eastern Europe as a "Worker's Paradise". The basic premise of a front organisation for MI5 promoting artists who might counter the silly pro-Soviet propaganda of the time seems potty now but I don't think it was implausible then. Perhaps the portrayal of a misogynistic class-ridden MI5 is accurate too.

Sarah Froome, apart from being a laughably implausible spy, is a curiously empty character who seemingly thinks only of her last bonk. By the end I still didn't care about her. It's that kind of book. At one point McEwan ties himself in linguistic knots trying to explain some obscure quirk of mathematical probability and which, like his Tom Haley, he seems to have only half-grasped after a conversation in a pub. What on earth was Ian M thinking of? Tom Haley goes with bewildering speed from obscure university lecturer to award-winning novelist, out-penning such literary pigmies as Martin Amis. What a load of horse manure! Still, at least I could identify a little with him.

Then there's the much talked-about "twist". Well, my apologies to those who see it that way, but I found it absurd and I think McEwan just didn't know how else to finish the novel off. I was going to give this novel 3 stars You know, when I think about it, this was a heap of dross really - albeit classy dross.

I think Ian is going backwards as a novellist. He needs to take a long hard look at his plot lines and be honest with himself about where the line between improbability and absurdity lies. Above all, he needs to create characters with some warmth that we can care about.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 24 Nov 2012 21:01:38 GMT
Bruce D says:
Totally agree with this review.

Posted on 17 Dec 2012 17:13:57 GMT
You have written a good review. This is clever writing, going nowhere and thus inducing a sense of frustration in the reader. A sort of clever coldness prevails.

In reply to an earlier post on 18 Sep 2013 17:52:35 BDT
C. L. Kelly says:
This review was spot on.I agree with everything you said.
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