Ian McEwan

 

Amsterdam

 

McEwanÕs vigorous style grabs you from the outset, but itÕs not merely strong, itÕs intelligent too. Occasionally even insightful.

 

Interesting that while the book opens by centring around a womanÕs death, women are almost invisible in this story. Instead McEwan pours himself into a detailed meditation on a couple of alpha males.

 

The twist ending made it feel like a short story that inflated into a novella: the symmetrical conclusion was surely the basis of the tale. Short stories that get out of hand like this can often lose their charm and sting, but the reverse is true of ŌAmsterdamÕ: this book excels when it indulges in detailing the thoughts and motivations of editor Vernon and composer Clive. The latter in particular is an excellent characterisation: our feelings towards him change throughout the book Š he surprises us but remains consistent. Moreover McEwan manages to devote several pages to descriptions of the composition process without boring us (well, me anyway). And is there even a bit of honest self analysis for a successful middle aged writer subtly peeling away the dignity of his established professional artist to reveal delusional vanity?

 

In delving into Clive the book really soars, however I felt that the twee ending actually reduced a good book to a merely competent or clever one. Still, thatÕs saying that my toughest criticism is that at his worst here McEwan is better than many.

 

July 07