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on 21 November 2017
Again, different from all his other books. The story of love, the attitudes of the post-war generations, intergenerational commitments, and emotional entanglements, left me thinking about it for days afterwards. Highly recommended.
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on 28 September 2017
I have read this book three times since published. Its brilliant. Have read everything by McEwan since.
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on 6 December 2017
good book as ever
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on 5 October 2012
"In the Nightmare of the dark/All the dogs of Europe bark".(W.H.Auden). The underlying philosophical idea of this book is the conflict between the rational and religious views of life, as personified in the characters of the parents-in-law of the narrator, irrevocably in love but totally unable to live in harmony with each other's world view or even agree on the details of their shared memories. The post-war incident in France with the black dogs is the trigger for June's epiphany; her confrontation with evil paradoxically causing her to experience in the moment a spiritual enlightenment, separating her for ever from the naive Communist view she had shared with her husband Bernard. He is unable to comprehend or share her insights and this leads to their lifelong separation.

I seemed to detect the shadow of Freud's "Wolf Man" case history in the author's concept of the black dogs, but anyway I think they are appropriate symbols for the assault on rational thinking engendered by the evils unleashed in World War 2.

As one would expect from McEwan, the book is fluently written and a compulsive read. It engages a serious subject without a trace of pretentiousness. It has the effect of really good writing: it lingers in the mind long after putting it down.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 1 December 2017
When I read the final ominous lines of this short novel by arguably our finest, most thought-provoking living novelist, my first articulated thought was: What a beautiful book.
Beautiful? Why, yes. A novel this complex in construction yet so clear and devastating in execution and effect can only be called a work of art, and therefore, in its way, beautiful.
Over several sections, and taking place over about forty years of the twentieth century, from immediate post-war to the late eighties {the novel was published in 1992}, McEwan's astonishingly concise, gripping tale tells of the various members of a family living and travelling in both England and western Europe, following in particular ~ sometimes through the entries in a memoir the narrator is writing of his reclusive mother-in-law ~ June and Bernard Tremaine, a mismatched yet loving married couple, both onetime Communists, he still a firm rationalist, she of a more mystical bent. If that sounds dry, it really isn't.
The author precisely, and with a scrupulous moral honesty, explores the pivotal moments in these lives ~ that of course include the narrator's and his wife's too ~ which include an event of threatening, life-changing violence of the kind we have come to expect in every novel by this writer. Oddly, this time said drama for me had echoes of E.M. Forster, for example the cave encounter in A Passage to India, or the killing in Howards End; or even the far more benign kiss in A Room With a View.
I don't quite know how McEwan achieves his unforgettable effects, which are akin to the shocks in a good ghost story, though with rather more relevance to our lives and the way we live them. He's become such a reliable storyteller that one follows him willingly, even when one is reluctant to, for fear of what might be encountered..
This is a hugely compassionate book, unwilling to cast judgments, and generous in spirit to even the worst of its characters. I think it is a small masterpiece, and is a novel I will keep to re-read one day.

Highly recommended.
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on 14 July 2011
I love the way Ian McEwan splits people. He is one of my favourite writers but at times I could strangle him. I was bored to tears by the drawn-out and completely unbelievable 'Saturday' and disgusted by 'The Comfort of Strangers' (as well as some of his early short stories), but novels like 'Enduring Love', 'Atonement' and 'Black Dogs' make up for things in a big way.

Black Dogs is intense, fascinating and exciting. The characters are believable, intriguing and, as in a lot of McEwan novels, fairly loathsome! I've lent this book to some of my friends and it has split them too - some said they couldn't get into it at all whereas others were gripped from the first page, as I was. I'm sure Ian McEwan likes the split he generates - buying one of his books is like gambling, but I'm very glad I gambled on this one. I remember a shiver running down my spine the day after i finished it - when I walked past a bookies that had a big photo of two black dogs in the window. Gamble and read this - and if you don't like it, you'll probably love some of his other stuff...
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on 9 August 2015
Cover 3/5 The book I read had one dog on the cover ... an edition from the 1990s


I was drawn into the book with the opening page and could not stop turning the pages. The structuring of the story as usual from Ian McEwan interesting. Characters well drawn. My preconception was a book about depression ... not really so in the end.

I may well read again

Alexander of the Allrighters and Ywnwab!
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on 8 April 2016
Again McEwan addresses the effects of evil on the innocent, this time in the context of World War II. He also exposes the
reality of occupation by the Nazis and their evil depredations and the loss of life affecting every family and future generations.
It is also a spiritual quest by one of the protagonists to make sense of evil which pervades successive periods of history.
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on 17 September 2001
Black Dogs was the 7th Ian McEwan book I have read - all of the others I have either loved or really liked. Enduring Love and Amsterdam are two of my favourite all-time novels. Black Dogs is the only one of McEwan's novels I did not enjoy and actually disliked. Not only is it a laborious read, with nothing to keep the story moving along, but the symbolism is absurdly obvious and the events implausible.
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on 11 July 2001
This is less of a gripping page turner than some of McEwan's later books, and may suffer in comparison as a result. However, it rewards on other levels. As always in McEwan the characterisation is totally convincing, but it is the book's engagement with history that really compels. McEwan takes in war, revolution and the nature of evil, and the image of the black dogs haunted my imagination as it did the characters in the book. The scenes in Berlin as the wall comes down were also memorable, but more than anything I enjoyed this book because it made me think, and because it showed that the author himself had really grappled with the themes of the book without ever losing sight of the every day reality of being human.
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