Sunday 21st October
One advantage of owning a kindle is that one can read new books at a fraction of the cost of Hardbacks, and not have to wait for the still-more-expensive-than-a-kindle paperback version to arrive. As soon as I heard of McEwan’s new book I downloaded it to my kindle, and though I had a couple of others in the pipeline to read I couldn’t wait for this one. I deliberately didn’t read any book reviews as I like my books to be a surprise, and I wasn’t disappointed. There is a similarity in style in all of McEwan’s books, in that they are very beautifully written with a lot of what my writing teacher calls ‘show and tell’ where bits of the plot are drip-fed to the reader as you slowly become aware of the full plot. And it is funny and sad and clever too, also a great idea is that the heroine is reading another character’s stories as he is being groomed for literary stardom. So we get about four stories within the big story, although not the actual stories, just a clever readers synopsis of these books we will never get to read. Maybe they are all discarded plots of McEwan himself, or just ideas that came to him as he imagined the possible output of his make-believe budding author.
The time-frame is one of my favourites too; the early seventies; and the sense of hopelessness and doom in describing the political ups and downs and the three day week are very nicely done, especially as we see them mostly from a right-wing perspective. The novel is about M15, at a time when it wasn’t at all sure of its role anymore, and the characters are maybe a touch too caricatured but still quite believable.
Nice to see a female heroine so full of self-doubts, when most writers, especially female ones present their heroines as dauntless and feisty and so sure of themselves, when, especially back in the seventies women were only beginning to gain their place. In any case there is nothing wrong with characters who are unsure and worried about how they appear to the world. It is all the more believable for that.
A nice pace drives the story along to its more or less inevitable ending, although a clever literary device works very well in the end. So, another highly enjoyable book from a writer at the top of his form; 8/10 I think.