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Sweet Tooth by [McEwan, Ian]
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Sweet Tooth Kindle Edition

3.7 out of 5 stars 504 customer reviews

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Review

"Enthralling, beguiling and totally addictive from the first page to the last… McEwan’s sense of time and place is authentic with his trademark attention to details of the social history of the period" (Bristol Magazine)

"A brilliant portrayal of 1970s Britain at its absolute worst… But it's also a gripping spy novel with some characteristic McEwan twists toward the end" (Mail on Sunday)

"No contemporary novelist is more enthralled by what goes on inside the human skull than Ian McEwan... Doubling back and forth across genre boundaries, Sweet Tooth takes risks...this acute, witty novel is a winningly cunning addition to McEwan’s fictional surveys of intelligence." (Peter Kemp Sunday Times)

"Playful, comic... This is a great big Russian doll of a novel, and in its construction – deft, tight, exhilaratingly immaculate – is a huge part of its pleasure." (Julie Myerson Observer)

"A thoroughly clever novel...a sublime novel about novels, about writing them and reading them and the spying that goes on in doing both...very impressive...rich and enjoyable." (Lucy Kellaway Financial Times)

Book Description

Love and espionage in 1970s Britain: a riveting new novel from the bestselling author of Atonement and Enduring Love

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1194 KB
  • Print Length: 402 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Digital (21 Aug. 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B007T99ENE
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars 504 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #9,054 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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By John Tierney VINE VOICE on 22 Sept. 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I wasn't convinced by McEwan's attempt at humour in Solar and this is very much a return to what I think he is good at. The story of Serena Frome (rhymes with plume!) and narrated by her, it tells of her progression from studying maths at Cambridge (whilst nurturing her real passion for literature) to her recruitment by MI5 in the early 70s. MI5 at that time is very much a male-dominated organisation and the women recruited are given mostly admin tasks. Serena has left a relationship with an older married man at Cambridge (who groomed her for MI5) and is attracted to Max, a senior colleague at work. But her life changes when she is given a real assignment - managing a young author, Tom Haley, who MI5 believe to have the right (sic) tendencies to write the type of thing they like i.e. anti-communist essays and novels. Serena persuades Tom to accept funding (with its real source hidden) to support his work, but things are (somewhat predictably) complicated as she is immediately attracted to him and vice versa. From then it's only a matter of time before things start to unravel and although the novel is not exciting as such, the prose is extremely taut and is fairly un-putdownable.

I was concerned early on in the book that there was a lot of writing about writing going on, something I detest. And there are a lot of references to books and authors - there is even a very famous author who has a part in the book, although we never "see" him directly.
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Format: Hardcover
McEwan's latest novel charts the progress of Serena Frome from the seat of her father's bishopric, via a mathematics degree at Cambridge, to a junior role in MI5 during the 1970s. Much of the novel is taken up with her romantic engagements, professional disappointments and love of literature until all of them become bound together in a single operation, Sweet Tooth.

There are writers -like Martin Amis, who appears as a minor character in this novel- who excel at writing gorgeous, funny, efficient prose and who create engaging characters but struggle to package it into a wholly satisfying novel. McEwen is at the other end of the spectrum; the complex structures of his novels are marvellously articulated but the tone and characters feel cold and, consequently, can leave the reader a little apathetic.

It comes as no surprise, therefore, that this novel only really seems to catch light in the latter third, when the plot (and the obligatory twist) accelerate and come to the fore. In comparison, the more prosaic early chapters seem to drag. There is some interest to be had from the minutiae of the security services, considerations on literature and a nice evocation of the winter of discontent. Nevertheless, I found it difficult to warm to Serena, who is so central to the novel and whose tribulations struck me as mundane and her insecurities annoying rather than endearing. There were also few tics in her first person narrative (repeated phrases, the sex descriptions) that seemed careless.
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By Susie B TOP 100 REVIEWER on 22 Aug. 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It is the early seventies, and Serena Frome, the very attractive daughter of an Anglican bishop, is working towards a degree in mathematics at Cambridge, after being coerced into studying maths by her quietly ambitious mother, instead of studying English as she would have preferred. Serena, who has always been a compulsive and voracious reader, finds herself struggling with the standard of maths expected of her at Cambridge and looks elsewhere for her enjoyment, burying herself in her books and looking for romance. In her final year, she meets Tony Canning, her boyfriend's tutor, a much older, married man and they enter into a short, but passionate affair, part of which involves Tony grooming Serena for the intelligence service.

Serena manages to get through the screening process for the British Intelligence Service and starts working for MI5 in a very junior position; however she is keen to improve her prospects and when, through her knowledge of literature, she is assigned to an operation called 'Sweet Tooth' she is eager to prove her worth. Serena learns that MI5 have set up a cultural foundation to secretly support writers who speak out against communism and she is to act as a representative of the foundation. In her pose, Serena is to encourage a young writer, Tom Haley, to leave his post in academia and be supported by the foundation to enable him to write full time, but he must remain unaware that the funding is coming from MI5. Serena is initially successful in her mission, but when she becomes intellectually, physically and then emotionally involved with Haley, she finds leading a double life is much more difficult and less exciting than she had imagined and she also discovers that this is where the lines between truth and fiction become blurred.
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