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Enduring Love, Ian McEwan,
This review is from: Enduring Love (Paperback)
It is difficult to give a synopsis of this book, as after all so much of its cumulative power and suspense lie in the gradual revelation of its plot movement. It is really enough just to say that this is a novel about one man and his stalker. It begins with possibly the most sublime and perfect first chapter, which is a demonstration of McEwan's acute ability to create a teasing, hypnotic and terrible suspense from mere hints. From the events of that first chapter, one man's life is set on a new and potentially dangerous path.
In a way, McEwan's depiction of how people's lives can be adversely affected by brushing up against someone who, in accepted terms, is not quite "normal", is distinctly Rendellian. Though, while McEwan's portrayal of this particular malign influence is certainly powerful, here it is not quite as convincing or effective, even though it works well enough for the purposes of the plot. Another large slice of this novel's magic comes from McEwan's ability, through his tempered, reasonable prose, to make the most surreal of things seem entirely possible, even probable. Gradually, this book becomes a fascinating and satisfyingly oblique examination of obsession and all forms of love: familial, sexual, parental, as well as study in what love itself means, though the various character's experiences. The brilliant double-take title places a sharp gloss onto these themes, setting mental cogs in motion to top the excellent ensemble off perfectly.
Another of McEwan's trademarks is on brilliant display here, too: the depiction of the gradual disintegration of human relationships. He is a true master in this area, understanding with deadly realism how fragile relationships are, how even the smallest shifts can irreparably damage them if those changes are reinforced, if the requisite fixing is not done in time. This has long been a theme of McEwan's work, right from his first novel, "The Cement Garden", through to his Booker Prize-winning "Amsterdam", and here he tackles them possibly with more clarity and precision than ever before. He also manages a quite brilliant balance of science and emotion, which grounds the novel as well as allowing it to look upwards and outwards at the same time, into the soul.
His prose is also as tempered and spare as ever, perfectly succinct and tight, and is a virtuoso lesson in detachment. Eerily and atmospherically so, as this novel is written in the first person, giving an odd but effective personal juxtaposition between the reader and characters.
Enduring Love is a gripping, literate pageturner. It's not a book for people who like Pattersonesque comic-book style novels, but for those who like to savour the words, the semantics, the sentences - everything that lies hidden behind the scenes, as well as the story. Full of provoking pensive passages, it's one of the most compelling and intelligent novels yet from one of the world's literary heavyweights.