Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Amsterdam by: Ian McEwan

Title: Amsterdam
Author: Ian McEwan
Publisher: Anchor
Pages: 193
Format: Paperback
Source: Personal purchase


When good-time, fortysomething Molly Lane dies of an unspecified degenerative illness, her many friends and numerous lovers are led to think about their own mortality. Vernon Halliday, editor of the upmarket newspaper the Judge, persuades his old friend Clive Linley, a self-indulgent composer of some reputation, to enter into a euthanasia pact with him. Should either of them be stricken with such an illness, the other will bring about his death. From this point onward we are in little doubt as to Amsterdam's outcome--it's only a matter of who will kill whom. In the meantime, compromising photographs of Molly's most distinguished lover, foreign secretary Julian Garmony, have found their way into the hands of the press, and as rumors circulate he teeters on the edge of disgrace. However, this is McEwan, so it is no surprise to find that the rather unsavory Garmony comes out on top. Ian McEwan is master of the writer's craft, and while this is the sort of novel that wins prizes, his characters remain curiously soulless amidst the twists and turns of plot. --Lisa Jardine

My thoughts:

This was my 3rd time reading a McEwan novel. Before Amsterdam, I'd read Atonement and The Comfort of Strangers. We read The Comfort of Strangers as a book club, and we were all affected by it on different levels. I believe this is why I had very high expectations from the 1998 Booker Prize winner Amsterdam. I still love McEwan; that hasn't changed. But I miss the ohnohedidn't moments from before.

In my book club, we're all very interested in reading the award-winning books. I can't say we enjoyed what we've read so far. I myself find award-winning books rather exhausting to read. Especially the ones like Amsterdam where politics are involved and I have no idea about that country's politics. I'm sure those who do know a thing or two were surprised or something during certain parts, but I was unable to notice anything of this context.

A short while ago, I shared with my book club this NY Times article. While talking about Will Self's novel called Umbrella, it quotes Ken Kesey, the author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest:

Good writing ain't necessarily good reading. 

When I read the article, I immediately thought of Amsterdam (probably because it was the latest book to make me feel that way, but still...) It really does summarize how I felt while reading the book. McEwan's character-building is just as amazing as ever, but the rest of the story didn't do much for me. You'll find a piece of yourselves and many people you know in these characters, which is actually a good reason to give this book a try.