Deckchairs

Deckchairs

Quote

The true university these days is a collection of books.
-Thomas Carlyle

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Amsterdam by Ian McEwan


I picked this one up, after reading good reviews in various places, at The Amorous Cat bookshop. I've read a few of Ian McEwan's novels before and have enjoyed most of them. Being less than 200 pages it was a quick read.
The novel starts at the funeral of a woman called Molly, who has died at 46 from a mysterious brain disease. At her funeral is her husband, a dull publisher, and also 3 of her former lovers. Clive is a successful composer, Vernon is a newspaper editor and Julian is a politician. All 4 are eyeing each other up, unsure of how aware some of the others are of their involvement with Molly. There is a tangible measuring of egos in the air, sly looks and back handed comments. After the funeral some contraversial photos of Julian come out of Molly's possessions, the kind that can finish his career, and Vernon recognises that they are the kind of boost he has prayed for to gain success at the newspaper. Clive however finds it a betrayal of Molly's memory.
This is a story about the kind of extreme comic situations that can ensue from the jostling egos of middle aged men over a woman they have all known. The plot lines clamber over each other reaching unpredictable consequences for all and McEwan exploits every nuance of these flawed personalities to bring, as Caroline Moore from the Sunday Telegraph says on the back, 'A psychologically brilliant study of heartlessness...'
It is a quick read as I have said, and I found the beginning funnier, around the funeral and immediately after. I did find my interest waning towards the end though. These are not likable people, and while this provides their most awkward moments at the beginning, by the end I didn't care much what they did to each other. McEwan is excellent at presenting us with insights into the personalities of his characters, and he does not disappoint here. His writing is as entertaining as ever. I just didn't care much for the characters by the end.
A decent book that McEwan fans will love, just not one of my particular favourites, but still worth reading. The moralistics of the tale may provide readers groups something to chew on, as well as McEwan's style of writing. You can get a readers group guide for Amsterdam here.
Ian McEwan's website can be found by clicking on the link.

5 comments:

Jeane said...

I always find it hard to really get into a book when I don't like the characters. Haven't read any McEwan myself, but I've heard Atonement is good, have you read that one?

Nadia said...

I read Atonement and did not like that book because I didn't care much for the characters, so after reading your post am not sure I'll enjoy Amsterdam since those characters sound rather unlikeable. I did just mooch Saturday by McEwan so I'll find out if writing about unlikeable characters is his forte.

Leah said...

Jeane - Thanks for dropping by. Atonement is on my TBR pile and I loved the film.
Nadia - I wasn't much into Saturday but I loved Enduring Love and On Chesil Beach, he does get into the minds of the characters really well. Thanks for your comment

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Gentle Reader said...

I felt similarly about Amsterdam. The characters were just so unlikeable. I enjoyed Atonement, Saturday, and On Chesil Beach, though--probably the bigger range of characters, with at least some good qualities, helped!

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