McEwan is a talented writer but he has a passion for digression - dinosaurs, quantum physics, Romantic poetry - off he goes on a little ego trip, often leaving the reader stranded at a pivotal juncture in the story. He'll get to the point eventually but only in his own good time. Perhaps this is his way of heightening the narrative tension but it doesn't work for me.
His characters are not recognisable as independent human beings - they're all McEwan, obviously wearing an imaginary pleated skirt when he's being Clarissa. If one compares this novel to the way Roddy Doyle transforms himself into Paula Spencer in The Woman Who Walked Into Doors - the gulf is vast.
On page 192 of this book he writes, 'A powerful odour of burnt food and ammonia rolled, or blared, out of the house...'. The idea of an odour blaring out of a house is great but its rather spoiled by first positing that the odour 'rolled out' - which is not nearly as evocative. But why give us the choice in the first place?
McEwan regularly exhibits flashes of brilliance both in his language and ideas but too often they're lost in a cloud of indecision.
The idea behind this book is fascinating but the McEwan's treatment of it is not.
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