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Amsterdam Hardcover – 27 Aug 1998

3.0 out of 5 stars 151 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Jonathan Cape; 1st edition, 1st impression edition (27 Aug. 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0224051709
  • ISBN-13: 978-0224051705
  • Product Dimensions: 14.7 x 2.4 x 22.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (151 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 121,476 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Amazon Review

When good-time, fortysomething Molly Lane dies of an unspecified degenerative illness, her many friends and numerous lovers are led to think about their own mortality. Vernon Halliday, editor of the up-market newspaper The Judge, persuades his old friend Clive Linley, a self-indulgent composer of some reputation, to enter into a euthanasia pact with him. Should either of them succumb to such an illness, the other will effect his death. From this point onwards we are in little doubt as to the novel's outcome--it's only a matter of who will kill whom. In the meantime, compromising photographs of Molly's most distinguished lover, foreign secretary Julian Garmony, have found their way into the hands of the press, and as rumours circulate he teeters on the edge of disgrace. However, this is McEwan, so it is no surprise to find that the rather unsavoury Garmony comes out on top. McEwan is master of the writer's craft, and while this is the sort of novel that wins prizes, his characters remain curiously soulless amidst the twists and turns of plot. --Lisa Jardine

Review

Winner of the Booker Prize

" A dark tour de force, perfectly fashioned."
--Michiko Kakutani, "The New York Times"
" A well-oiled machine....Ruthless and amusing."
--"The New York Times Book Review"
" Beautifully spare prose, wicked observation, and dark comic brio."
--"The Boston Globe"
" At once far-reaching and tightly self-contained, a fin de sie cle phantasmagoria."
--"New York"
" Ian McEwan has proven himself to be one of Britain's most distinct voices and one of its most versatile talents....Chilling and darkly comic."
--"Chicago Tribune"
" By far his best work to date...an energizing tightrope between feeling and lack of feeling, between humanity's capacity to support and save and its equally ubiquitous penchant for detachment and cruelty."
--"The San Diego Union-Tribune"
" You won't find a more enjoyable novel...masterfully wrought, sure to delight a reader with even half a sense of humor." --"The Atlant Journal-Constitution"
" McEwan writes the sort of witty repartee and scathing retort we wished we thought of in the heat of battle. On a broader scale, McEwan's portrayal of the mutually parasitic relationship between politicians and journalists is as damning as it is comic." --"The Christian Science Monitor"

Winner of the Booker Prize


"A dark tour de force, perfectly fashioned."
--Michiko Kakutani, "The New York Times"

"A well-oiled machine....Ruthless and amusing."
--"The New York Times Book Review"

"Beautifully spare prose, wicked observation, and dark comic brio."
--"The Boston Globe"

"At once far-reaching and tightly self-contained, a fin de siecle phantasmagoria."
--"New York"

"Ian McEwan has proven himself to be one of Britain's most distinct voices and one of its most versatile talents....Chilling and darkly comic."
--"Chicago Tribune"

"By far his best work to date...an energizing tightrope between feeling and lack of feeling, between humanity's capacity to support and save and its equally ubiquitous penchant for detachment and cruelty."
--"The San Diego Union-Tribune"

"You won't find a more enjoyable novel...masterfully wrought, sure to delight a reader with even half a sense of humor." --"The Atlant Journal-Constitution"

"McEwan writes the sort of witty repartee and scathing retort we wished we thought of in the heat of battle. On a broader scale, McEwan's portrayal of the mutually parasitic relationship between politicians and journalists is as damning as it is comic." --"The Christian Science Monitor"

Winner of the Booker Prize

"A dark tour de force, perfectly fashioned."
--Michiko Kakutani, "The New York Times"
"A well-oiled machine....Ruthless and amusing."
--"The New York Times Book Review"
"Beautifully spare prose, wicked observation, and dark comic brio."
--"The Boston Globe"
"At once far-reaching and tightly self-contained, a fin de siecle phantasmagoria."
--"New York"
"Ian McEwan has proven himself to be one of Britain's most distinct voices and one of its most versatile talents....Chilling and darkly comic."
--"Chicago Tribune"
"By far his best work to date...an energizing tightrope between feeling and lack of feeling, between humanity's capacity to support and save and its equally ubiquitous penchant for detachment and cruelty."
--"The San Diego Union-Tribune"
"You won't find a more enjoyable novel...masterfully wrought, sure to delight a reader with even half a sense of humor." --"The Atlant Journal-Constitution"
"McEwan writes the sort of witty repartee and scathing retort we wished we thought of in the heat of battle. On a broader scale, McEwan's portrayal of the mutually parasitic relationship between politicians and journalists is as damning as it is comic." --"The Christian Science Monitor"" --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
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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By E. A Solinas HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on 25 Feb. 2007
Format: 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.
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Format: 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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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
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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Format: 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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