Ian McEwan, the 'master clockmaker of novelists,' has finally let me down. Having read all his books (four of them twice), I left this one to last because of its characterisation as a children's book. Part of what I love about McEwan is the darkness he portrays so effortlessly. His characters inhabit a menacing world where something wicked *always* this way comes. Many times that darkness is so twisted and disturbing it leaves me feeling unsettled for days. I didn't think any of this could possibly happen in a so-called 'children's book,' but the blurbs and quotes on the book comparing it to Roald Dahl convinced me that it wasn't just a frivolous romp and that I should give it a go.
Well, there are fleeting glimpses of his stunning prose here, but the majority of the book is so simplistic as to be insulting. The tone comes off as patronising and the writing feels dumbed-down. This is McEwan self-censored beyond recognition. Granted, this IS a book aimed at children first and foremost, so perhaps I'm being overly sensitive. But I couldn't help but feel cheated by the promise that adults wouldn't feel talked down to.
By way of contrast, I personally didn't care for 'Saturday,' but McEwan's writing is so exquisite that it didn't matter. I remember saying at the time that he could publish his laundry list and I'd eagerly devour every word. I suppose that's been tested now.