Top critical review
Vacuous, Tedious and Pretentious
on 18 March 2017
This is such a poor book. Vacuous, shallow, pretentious, self-indulgent, it is one of the worst novels I have ever read, if not the worst. The writing can at best be described as tidy, but it is also totally uninspiring, pedestrian, tedious, amateurish, lacking in originality and creativity, with the complete absence of any narrative drive. Ian McEwan seems to be under the misapprehension that he is a good writer, someone whose writing we should just sit back and admire page after page. He is not. The writing is very lazy and self-indulgent - a good editor would have reduced this book to the size of a leaflet. McEwan believes he can write hundreds of pages where very little happens, where the writing is exceptional only in its ordinariness and tediousness, where he says nothing of any significance about the human condition, but that we should just sit back and admire.
The central incident in the narrative is written so obscurely and so insignificantly that to base a whole novel on it is ridiculous; the characters are so shallow and untruthful, are such obvious literary creations and so utterly forgettable, and there is a complete dearth of any ideas, insights or intellectualism. How on earth the novel got the reviews that are quoted on the cover - a 'masterpiece' and the greatest novel of the greatest contemporary English novelist - I do not know. Maybe I am looking for something different in a novel, looking for beauty, soul, ideas, originality, creativity, truthfulness, and a narrative imperative, all things which this empty novel completely lacks. This is a one star review because a no star review was not an option. My advice would be to enjoy the hours of your life which you would have wasted reading this pointless book.