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Enduring Love
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on 19 September 2012
Ian McEwan is inarguably a good writer. He paints fantastic mental images, and has an interesting way with words. However, this does not stop him from being boring, self indulgent, and pretentious. The character of Joe is clearly just McEwan, and because of this we've got a boring, self indulgent, and pretentious narrator for 245 pages. Both his plot and character development are paper thin. With no likeable, or even interesting, characters; they all just seem to moan for the most part. There are times were the book picks up pace and becomes somewhat readable and then goes on to a tangent about Darwinism, or lesser known scientific ideas. It almost feels as fifty percent of the book is completely irrelevant to the plot, and is just the ramblings of the author. I read a review that called it a "page turner", that you "couldn't put down if you intend getting any sleep that night", let me assure you this, I'm afraid, not the case. Stay clear. I struggled to finish it, and that, to me, is the sign of a bad book.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 19 December 2015
This is an intelligently written book which I found captivating from start to finish - thanks to some extent to my good fortune in avoiding all the reviews which gave spoilers. Consequently I found the suspense, presented through the analytical mind of the narrator, strikingly powerful. And consequently, I will not reveal anything about the story.

The low ratings given to this book are in many cases due to misreading. That the book, or the "bad" character, is described as "nasty" almost makes me despair. Where is the readers' humanity for a pitiful, abused, desperate individual? (Read it and make your own judgement)

The story is a delicious combination of several difficult topics: mental illness (one particular sort), the strengths and weaknesses of an extreme scientific habit of thought (which one reviewer mistook for an "unreliable narrator") and multiple angles on the pain of love - loss, delusion, suspicion, the consequence of tragedy, and a classic case of partners failing to understand each other. The title word "enduring" applies to each of the three loves in the book (four if you include the references to Keats). The delusion of love and the real mental illness are contrasted with false accusations of delusion and mental illness.

All these strands are woven together in a coherent and convincing whole. Some readers have questioned the realism of the mentally ill character. I too, towards the middle of the book, found that character's behaviour exaggerated. But as the book progressed I realised how mistaken I had been. Have no doubt - the human mind is perfectly capable of everything in these pages. It was not exaggerated one jot. This was admittedly an extreme case but that makes it no less realistic. The purpose of a novel is to let us safely experience things we would never ordinarily go near (and let's be grateful for that).

It takes a few seconds to verify the accuracy of the author's research but spare him a thought. The book was published 4 years before the founding of wikipedia.
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on 9 December 2017
I agree with the many other 1-star reviewers. The author seems to be trying very hard to show off the research (a little bit of reading) he's done interspersing, and thus padding out, the sparse plot with opinions and vignettes about science.
Some have said there is a debate in the novel about science vs religion, there isn't, that is flattering this book too much! I think, quite possibly, in the right hands, say for instance Lionel Shriver, this could have been an interesting and thought provoking premise and read but in McEwan's hands we have a plodding, waffly chore of a read with awful, smug characters. We don't care about any of them. The main character is a selfish misogynist, more interested in massaging his ego and scoring points than in showing any love and regard for his long term partner. There are subplots, which seem tacked on, one of which regarding the man who dies in the ballooning incident in the first chapter is resolved in the last, in what seems like an afterthought merely to wrap up a loose end that doesnt serve much purpose to the novel.
There's also a running thread about parenthood and childlessness which McEwan seems to want to inject for some warmth. Like everything in this book though, it's amateurish, obvious and contrived.
It reads like a first novel so I'm surprised to find he'd written a few before this one. Maybe he had a book contract to honour and cobbled this together for it
A most unsatisfying read.
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on 16 June 2008
This is my first McEwan, and it drew me in entirely from the opening lines of Chapter One. The opening scene is beautifully, movingly, and intriguingly presented, and it sparks a ravenous curiosity in the reader.

I thoroughly enjoyed McEwan's narrative in the early parts of the book, however the characters never really sat comfortably for me nor evoked my sympathy.

The writing was really powerful in places - and then rather self-conscious in others. Maybe this is because McEwan was trying to stay true to the case study he presents in the Appendices.

The denouement felt a bit over-worked, as if McEwan was trying too hard for plausibility. The lack of viewpoints other than Joe Rose's through the book leads to an ending which feels rather rushed and contrived.

Some scenes are presented with masterful suspense and subtle pointers, yet when the action finally happens it feels weak. McEwan strikes me as being a very intellectual writer, which is great, and I wonder if some of the immediacy of the action suffers because of that.

I would have liked a bit more on Jed Parry, maybe an insight into his mindset or explanation about why he was in that Oxfordshire field, and why he became so entranced with Joe in particular, though I guess this isn't possible with a first person account. If there'd been an omniscient narrator instead this would have been more feasible - and I think might have made a more powerful, more convincing narrative, although a rather different type of book altogether.

The case study included in the end was enlightening, though it left me with lots of questions about why McEwan couldn't have broadened the scope of his novel to explore the facts of the case study more thoroughly, and in a more literary sense, rather than tagging on some scientific notes to the end in a kind of "told you so" gesture.

An extremely thought-provoking read, compelling in parts, though perhaps a bit narrow in scope, and with a bit of a dashed-off feel about it. Nevertheless a great discussion book!
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on 6 April 2012
'Enduring Love' promises a lot, but never delivers.

The narrative takes off in style. By the end of the first scene - wherein our middle-class hero Joe Rose witnesses, and is partially implicated in, the death of a man in a ballooning disaster - McEwan's writing chops are beyond question. It's a brilliant scene, capturing the sense of disbelief and horror we feel at the instant when the unthinkable becomes real.

And in the aftermath of this devastating opening, the book only seems to get better: Joe's taken a serious knock from what he's seen and done, and appears to be losing his grip. To make matters worse, Joe is being stalked by Jed, a disturbed young man whom Joe encountered at the scene of the disaster. Joe's unease at being trailed by a nutter is understandable, but there's something wrong. Joe is alienating his girlfriend Clarissa and, intriguingly, we're led to suspect that Joe's persecution is largely a figment of his own imagination.

This is interesting stuff. Clearly, Joe has suffered a trauma that has badly shaken his sense of self, and he's not coping. Given McEwan's undeniable gifts as a writer, the reader's convinced he's in for a great ride, expecting nothing less than a top-shelf glimpse into the Dark Soul of Man and the Enduring Verities of the Human Condition. Or at least something above par.

But then, just as the narrative starts to gain some serious altitude, he turns off the gas. Turns out Jed is what seems to be: a nutter. And that's all. You see, Jed's got de Clerambault's syndrome, one of the pretentious names that shrinks give to stalkers. Now I know it's not nice to be a nutter, and it's even less nice to be stalked by one, but I don't go to literature to find that out. After the narrative proper peters out, McEwan even whacks on a pretend psych's report - complete with awful pseudo-medical jargon - about poor Jed, who's been committed to an asylum and doesn't seem to be getting any better.

I feel bad for Jed, but in the end he's a bit boring. Joe's a bit boring too, and so, in the end, is this book.
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on 12 May 2009
Enduring Love is about obsession, and the lengths and extremes to which it, and love, can endure. The book opens unforgettably. A hot-air balloon comes crashing down into the middle of a field outside of London, and with its descent it throws together the lives of complete strangers. Joe, the narrator, is picnicking with his girlfriend Clarissa when it happens, and finds himself on his feet and running towards this potential tragedy. He is not alone. From separate points of the field, others are rushing to help, among them Jed Parry. Together, they attempt to bring the balloon under control in an effort to save the child inside. But one of them (the exact person is not known) lets go. The others follow suit, with only the doctor and father John Logan hanging on. As they watch him float away hundreds of feet up in the air, they see him gradually slipping, slipping, slipping, until it seems that for a moment he is suspended in mid-air, before he goes crashing to the ground. Joe looks around him, glancing at Parry, before going off to find the body. Parry follows, and pleads with the atheist Joe to say a prayer when they discover the corpse. Joe politely refuses and leaves when the emergency forces arrive, thinking that Jed Parry is a harmless crank...
Until he gets a phone call that night, until Jed starts waiting outside his house, until he receives letter after letter, Parry pleading with Joe to admit his love for him and allow him to bring him to God.
Parry is convinced that something passed between them at the accident, is convinced that Joe loves him. Joe finds himself getting increasingly scared. He feels he is alone. The police won't help, and it seems that even his girlfriend doubts his sanity. He feels that he is the only one who recognises his plight.

This book gripped me to the extent that I was able to finish it in a short weekend. This is the only thing I can remember reading that actually had my heart beating and a sickly feeling of dread swelling up inside me. On the basis of this, the second book of his I have read, I would say without a doubt that McEwan has mastered the art of suspense. I was physically chilled by Jed's behaviour, but it was not his actions alone that worried me. McEwan, by telling this from the first-person perspective, is able to coax the reader into doubting, as Clarissa does, the truth of Joe's claims, as we see his mental state and his relationships start to deteriorate. Is Jed even there? I found myself asking. McEwan threads themes and ideas of perspective, objectivity and communication (or lack thereof) into his exceptionally conscious narrative, and it is fascinating to read Joe's lines of thought develop.

I'm still looking over my shoulder!
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on 4 February 2016
Well, it was certainly an enduring task getting through this book.
It wasn't all bad. When things actually happened in the story, it was interesting and engaging. The opening was brilliant as well. However, the inane ramblings of the narrator and the ridiculous and tiresome "love" letters from Jed, were painful and I end in up skim reading most of them.
I have not been put off from reading McEwan, but I can't recommend this book. It was truly a disappointment as it had been raved about by so many people I know.
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on 2 October 2004
I am an A level student who had to read Enduring Love as part of the course, and despite what others may have said, i found it to be an amazing piece of writing - so much so that i read it back to back three times. I don't understand how anybody could claim that it's dull or boring. There is so much going on under the surface of the book and so many hidden details that it is necessary to read it a few times to be able to grasp it's full power. I must admit that the first time i read it i wasn't exactly one over but now i would list it as one of the best books of all time. If you've only read it once.... read it again! The science is an integral part of the book and is needed to truly grasp the true characters. I love this book!!!!
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on 5 April 1999
This was the first Ian McEwan book I read and it prompted me to go out and read more. Although not the best book I have ever read (but definately one of the best opening chapters) I found it easy to read, hard to put down and depressing to finally finish. The story is truly unusual and imaginative and McEwans use of descriptive language makes it easy for the reader to identify and understand the chilling situation in which the main characters find themselves. The book reads on many different levels; it is a romance, a thriller, a horror and at times almost a psychological case study. Very creative and intelligent. Highly recommended!!
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on 12 June 1999
Unlike most other reviewers, I don't believe the opening chapter of Enduring Love is particularly stunning. I even found it difficult to accept the idea of people riding in helium balloons, since I'd never seen one - until I got off the train where I'd started reading the book and immediately saw one floating over the Thames!
But I believe the book actually gets better and better as one gets further in. The characters are extraordinarily well formed, the situations painfully reminiscent of real life and the examination of "enduring love" deeply moving - and tragically ironic.
If anything, the ending is a little abrupt, and the scientific musings a bit "male", but all in all this is the best novel I've read for years.
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