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1. Solar
2. The Innocent: A Novel
3. Black Dogs: A Novel
4. Saturday
5. On Chesil Beach
6. Enduring Love: A Novel
7. The Comfort of Strangers
8. The Child in Time
9. The Cement Garden
10. Amsterdam: A Novel
11. Atonement: A Novel
12. First Love, Last Rites: Stories
13. The Daydreamer
14. In Between the Sheets
15. The Fiction of Ian McEwan (Readers'
16. Ian McEwan's Enduring Love (Routledge
17. Ian McEwan: The Essential Guide
18. Atonement
19. Conversations with Ian McEwan
20. Ian McEwan (New British Fiction)

1. Solar
by Ian McEwan
Hardcover: 304 Pages (2010-03-30)
list price: US$26.95 -- used & new: US$10.99
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0385533411
Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France | Japan
Editorial Review

Product Description
The literary event of the season: a new novel from Ian McEwan, as surprising as it is masterful.

Michael Beard is a Nobel prize–winning physicist whose best work is behind him. Trading on his reputation, he speaks for enormous fees, lends his name to the letterheads of renowned scientific institutions, and half-heartedly heads a government-backed initiative tackling global warming. While he coasts along in his professional life, Michael’s personal life is another matter entirely. His fifth marriage is crumbling under the weight of his infidelities. But this time the tables are turned: His wife is having an affair, and Michael realizes he is still in love with her.

When Michael’s personal and professional lives begin to intersect in unexpected ways, an opportunity presents itself in the guise of an invitation to travel to New Mexico. Here is a chance for him to extricate himself from his marital problems, reinvigorate his career, and very possibly save the world from environmental disaster. Can a man who has made a mess of his life clean up the messes of humanity?

A complex novel that brilliantly traces the arc of one man’s ambitions and self-deceptions, Solar is a startling, witty, and stylish new work from one of the world’s great writers. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (134)

4-0 out of 5 stars Dark Materials, Murky Worlds
Solar is a hard-edged satire about an awful man named Michael Beard who leads an entirely selfish life. Beard is a successful scientist who is stricken to the very soul with vanity, with a profound inability to love either himself or others. He uses and inflicts pain on other people, and he in turn encounters suffering in every phase of his life.The book is beautifully written, and skillfully told. Nevertheless, I found it perhaps a bit too relentlessly bleak.

It helps to establish the genre first. This is a satire, a depiction of an anti-hero who embodies a series of traits that the author finds risible or repugnant. The book unfolds as a farce, as we watch Beard stumble from one failure to the next. In the literary world a cognate would be Sinclair Lewis's Babbitt; in popular culture, it would be Stephen Colbert.

A danger in writing satire of this type is that we spend an entire book with an unlikable character. The author is in danger of being perceived as mean spirited or cynical. Such books can be redeemed by a happy ending: this allows one to leave the book disliking the main character, but thinking him perhaps a bit of a lovable rogue. Stephen Colbert takes this approach in his TV show.

Another way to soften such relentlessly negative themes is to have the main character represent a hateful political or social point of view. One enjoys watching him fail, as we enjoy watching Hitler stumble in Charlie Chaplin's "The Great Dictator." Beard is appropriately despicable, but unfortunately he is working on the side of the angels. We want, for good reason, to see him accomplish his worthy goals, but at the same time we don't want him to succeed because he does not deserve to succeed. This leaves the reader in an uncomfortable position.

To help enliven the book, Ian McEwan develops an interesting dance with imagery depicting blindness and light. Beard knows everything about the scientific principle of light, and yet, like Heisenberg, he finds that he alters everything he sees in the very act of observing it. The theme of failed vision is enhanced by astute references to the murky world of quantum mechanics. It is given full voice when the main character quotes the blind poet Milton:

So much the rather thou Celestial light
Shine inward, and the mind through all her powers
Irradiate, and there plant eyes, all mist from thence
Purge and disperse, that I may see and tell
Of things invisible to mortal sight

Here Beard finds the right quote, but we sense that he does not understand its importance.

The author, of course, is fully aware of what transpires in his text. But is there really anything funny about watching a man destroy himself and others? Nominally a comedy, this tale at times seems to jump the tracks and come close to tragedy. Even when the jokes made me smile, I felt a rictus on my face. Surely, this is a depiction of hell. Beard, perhaps subliminally recognizes his fate, for he again recalls lines from Milton to great effect, but with little insight. His quote from Paradise Lost describes Hephaestus' fall from heaven:

Form morn to noon he fell
From noon to dewy eve.

This book is a long drawn out depiction of a talented man falling from grace. In Graham Greene's novels, we forgive similar themes because we have the possible redemption of religion. The reader is given a way out, a possible use for the lessons taught by the book. But here there is no redemptive message, only the painful depiction of all that is worst in the human soul.

Perhaps someone with a darker cast of mind than my own will find Solar a more satisfying read. I don't, however, regret giving it four stars. This is a serious comedy, and very skillfully written. For me, however, it is too relentlessly dark.

5-0 out of 5 stars It a Gas
I thought this book was a gas - and that's written by an old fart (geddit?). The central character is an upper class English cultural cousin of Martin Amis's working class anti-hero in London Fields - Keef was it? Michael Beard, the anti-hero of this is a fat glutton, happily romping through life treading on peoples' toes and kicking others in the bollocks as the need arises. His main aim is to get ahead and poke plenty of women in the process. He uses his intellectual celebrity status (he's got a Nobel prize for science - 'Nobel Prizes Free with Every Taco' - remember that?) to good use in this arena. Like Bill Clinton, he's a serial adulterer heading for a heart attack. He makes his way through 5marriages - or is it six? - I forget, but that is more than my own score. I'm not proud of my multiple marriages but it is difficult to keep one's eyes on the ball in the this dirty world of change, change, change, constant international travel and loose women only too happy to drop their pants at the chance of some personal gain.

But back to Sir Mick, sorry, I mean Professor Michael. I'm reading this book and I get the impression that I know this guy. And I think that one of the great things that the author has done here is too identify a contemporary British cultural archetype as his lead character. I have an old friend from Wales, Roger, who works in the oil business in Russia. He was drifting in an out (thankfully) of my mind while I was engrossed with this novel. Roger commands a good salary, he works like a nutcase - 10 hour days, six days a week and he is 60.Whenever I hear from him he is either knackered from over work, sick or just got out of international first class seat and he's been pissed up on champagne all the way from from Asia to the US. He like Prof. Michael spends a lot of time in the USA. And why wouldn't he if you consider the fate that is Britain's?

Ian McEwan tells a story very well. He has moments when the protagonist reflects upon his life with great insight and ruthless honesty into the raggedy arsed behaviour of his own generation. This is one of the best of those: "He was thinking how he never took Massie(his first wife) to meet his father, and never invited the old man to stay at the handsome rectory in Sussex, just left him to his sorrow while the new age dawned and the arrogant, shameless, spoiled generation turned its backs on its fathers who fought the war, dismissing them for their short hair and tidy ways and indifference to rock and roll". How true. What a sorry bunch we are. Of course feminism politicised this generational attitude and turned the most pampered generation of women the world has ever seen into .....wait for it.........victims! In the stakes of the saucepan calling the kettleblack only Goebels can beat 'em.

McEwan has done a great job in revealing the pschopathology of his own generation in this entertaining book. I'll give it five. There is a pint waiting in the taps of The Old Bell in Chiang Mai for ye whenever you happen to be in town for giving me several hours of intelligent reading.

5-0 out of 5 stars Wrong title for a great book
I loved this as much as Atonement.Unfortunately, it is the title that is not commercially viable that detracts.McEwan is a master of character and plot.I enjoyed evert minute (I listened to it, it reminded me of my ex=husabnd, in fact).His language is tantalizing, his research impeccable (like I would know...), but it was spell binding.I don't know how this novel did commercially, but I am hooked.I always thought the author as rather arrogant, but now I believe it is well deserved arrogance.A masterpiece.He motivates me to finish my own creative writing projects...

4-0 out of 5 stars Not so sunny, but illuminating
Climate change seems an odd backdrop for a novel; however, award-winning author McEwan uses this hot button topic to shed light on the human condition. Nobel-winning physicist Michael Beard is on a downward trajectory in his career, more interested in marrying, having affairs, and divorcing. Coasting along on past accomplishments, he becomes the "Chief" of the UK's Center for Renewable Energy. But when a freak accident kills Tom Aldous, a young colleague, Beard rejuvenates his professional life by implicating his wife's lover in the death and stealing Aldous' research on solar power. McEwan creates an unlikeable character in the self-deluded Beard, a risky move that may alienate some readers. However, the tension of knowing the extent of his guilt and wondering if he will pay a price carries the story even through some awkward time shifts in the narrative.

The ending seems hasty, and one wonders if Beard is getting off too lightly. After all, others have information that could lead to his ruin. Instead, in an ironic twist, he may be felled by melanoma. While this may not be McEwan's best work, his facility with language and the sardonic tone of the distant third-person narration make for an intelligent and interesting read.

Reviewed by Deb Jurmu

5-0 out of 5 stars Solar
I received my purchase two weeks ahead of the estimated delivery date.It is in excellent condition.

Because it is for a gift for my son, I haven't read it.But I had seen an interview with the author and felt that the plot of the book would be interesting to my son.I am very happy to have a Christmas gift ready for him that I think he will enjoy. ... Read more

2. The Innocent: A Novel
by Ian McEwan
Paperback: 288 Pages (1998-12-29)
list price: US$14.95 -- used & new: US$3.99
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0385494335
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France | Japan
Editorial Review

Product Description
Leonard Marnham is assigned to a British-American surveillance team in Cold War Berlin. His intelligence work—tunneling under a Russian communications center to tap the phone lines to Moscow—offers him a welcome opportunity to begin shedding his own unwanted innocence, even if he is only a bit player in a grim international comedy of errors. Leonard's relationship with Maria Eckdorf, an enigmatic and beautiful West Berliner, likewise promises to loosen the bonds of his ordinary life. But the promise turns to horror in the course of one terrible evening—a night when Leonard Marnham learns just how much of his innocence he's willing to shed. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (38)

4-0 out of 5 stars Not Your Typical Spy Thriller
Like Leonard Marnham, the protagonist in this fascinating novel, we the readers are also innocent to a certain extent.And reality is slowly revealed to us until we, horrified and frightened, finally come to realize what it all truly means. This is the fourth novel of Ian McEwan's that I have read, and it is one of my favorites.It moves along slowly, but the plot thickens rapidly, building to a breathless denoument that had me wide-eyed and breathless. Leonard, an innocent both socially and sexually, is assigned to a surveillance group in post-war Berlin.Based on true events, this novel takes us literally underground in the Cold War as Leonard works on a project tunneling under the wall into the Russian sector to tap into a Russian communications center's phone lines.So much is at work in the novel -- post-war Berlin struggles to recover from the war, all the while already having been divided by super powers at conflict with one another; British and American agents, though working together, have little trust or faith in one another; Leonard's relationship with the German woman, Maria Eckdorf, is muddied by the dark secrets of Maria's past; Leonard's struggle to find a place for himself not only in the espionage effort, but also in the world at large, causes him to experience paranoia and mistrust, often at the expense of his relationships and his own self-confidence.I could not help but wonder, as I read, what was really going on, and I looked for deeper motives in every character's actions.McEwan is an excellent writer, but don't expect that he will always give you want you want.I have come to expect the unexpected from him, and this book is certainly no exception.

5-0 out of 5 stars How Did I Overlook This?
As a shameless McEwen fan, this one, for whatever reason escaped me.Most McEwen critics claim his novels are really expanded short stories, or novellas.That cannot be said of this book.

Set in post war Berlin, every character has his or her secrets, and every character either knows of or learns of those secrets before it is over.The overarching theme
is "Who is 'The Innocent?'"The sexually inexperienced British protagonist?His
love interest whose past is marred by an abusive ex husband and poverty? The spies who don't fully comprehend what each other does?The Americans? The British? The vanquished Germans? The answer, probably is no one.

McEwen is spot on in this dark story with such a horrific plot twist which reveals the extent of human depravity and the ability of individuals to rationalize it, as well as the consequences.

It is worthy to note that two of the characters in the novel were real spies in Berlin during the 1950's, and while they do not play a major role in the plot, they
did have a huge part in how things turned out both in postwar Germany and in the book.

5-0 out of 5 stars Psychologically complex story with some gory scenes that kept me up through the night.Great book!
This 1989 novel by Ian McEwan is a masterful thriller with scrupulous attention to detail which has become this writer's trademark.The story is set in post-war Berlin in 1955 when British 25-year old Leonard Marnham is hired to work at a top-secret joint British American venture to tap the phone lines of the Russians.He quickly learns about post-war international relations and is also soon caught up in a torrid romance with a slightly older German woman, Maria, whose brutal ex-husband keeps showing up.

This is a story of psychological complexity and a series of shocking events.It also has comic elements and lots of violence.The romantic scenes are extremely explicit and sizzle with passion.And then there are the gory scenes that made me wince and yet keep me awake and reading through the night.The story moves fast and there were times I found myself holding my breath and turning pages with fascination at this well developed story.

By the end of the book we have seen the timid Leonard lose his innocence as he is swept up in a murder, a crime cover-up and a betrayal.And yet, there is a feeling that this kind of series of events could have happened to anyone.I identified with the character and felt real tension throughout this book.

Ian McEwan is a fine writer.I have read several of his books and they never disappoint.

Highly recommended.

5-0 out of 5 stars unresolved questions
I have read a number of McEwan's books.There is no question that this is another extraordinary novel;the intense poignancy of the character interactions, lingers with you for a long time after you finish the last page; and for anyone who has had an intimate relationship with another human being,the magnitude of the emotions that McEwan so deftly orchestrates, is often difficult to handle.

I read about the factual history of Operation Gold;I also know that the Russians knew about the tunnel before it was activated.What I wonder is whether Glass was the officer in charge of Maria - who was an operative woking for Glass?That Leonard was an unwitting pawn in some clandestine operation?That Glass and Maria were in their own relationship the whole time?If you read "The Company" by R. Littell, you realize that there were an incredible number of complex covert relationships after WWII.Was Otto an inconvenience who needed to be removed for whatever reason - and Leonard was the necessary instrument for this to happen?None of these questions take away from the literary integrity of the novel, but may shed a different light on the relationship between Leonard and Maria - and the actual perception of "innocence".Maria may not have been the person Leonard perceived her to be -boy was she creative and knowledgeable in the dismemberment sequences?!And although she may have developed some feelings for Leonard (which may have been responsible for the guilt necessitating the need to write the letter in the end) - the sequence at the airport with Glass, certainly suggests their close relationship.

Igor Dumbadze

4-0 out of 5 stars Not as Good as McEwan's Best
...but still pretty good.That sounds like faint praise, but rating this novel is not easy.

The Innocent is based on an actual and almost unbelievable espionage operation in Berlin during the Cold War.I recommend researching the incident before reading the book.This will not spoil the main developments of the plot which are personal and fictional and involve fictional characters.The historical operation was Operation Gold.Check it out.Being aware of the historical background will give the reader a better handle on the story.I read this without knowing that it was based on historical fact and felt that it was too far fetched to be believable.Finding out that it was historical was jaw-dropping.

The Innocent is an odd combination of satire, humor, gooey sentimentality, deep psychological insight, and utter gruesomeness.Be prepared to be nauseated along with Leonard and Maria--the main characters.I must warn that the most fulsome passages of the book seemed to me to be gratuitous punishment for the reader.

This novel is not for children or for those who are faint of stomach, nor for pleasant summer afternoon reading at the beach.

Having said all this I admit that I appreciated this novel and found it absorbing.

BTW:I consider McEwan's best to be Atonement and Enduring Love. ... Read more

3. Black Dogs: A Novel
by Ian McEwan
Paperback: 176 Pages (1998-12-29)
list price: US$14.00 -- used & new: US$4.10
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0385494327
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France | Japan
Editorial Review

Product Description
One of today's most celebrated novelists returns with a novel about family and political loyalties at the end of the Cold War. Writing a memoir of his parents-in-law, Jeremy relates the strange events that brought June and Bernard Tremaine together and set them apart. McEwan is the author of The Cement Garden and The Comfort of Strangers. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (42)

1-0 out of 5 stars The innocent?? More like the ridiculous!
I really wanted to like this book. It's set in Berlin, cold war, all the things that interest me. This book never gets me to believe anything about the main character. He's incompetent at best. Time spent describing cardboard boxes is tedious, and we never get any detail about the actual tunnel or the spy element to this whole story. To say this book lacks suspense is a bit of an understatement. The whole story is preposterous....young man, unsure of himself, falls for first girl he sees....I thought a high school kid wrote this book. The author thinks that by dropping in a name of a famous street here and there, it is enough to place you in Berlin. It's not. Save the $15 and buy something else.

3-0 out of 5 stars "We couldn't free ourselves into the present."
"Ever since I lost mine in a road accident when I was eight, I have had my eye on other people's parents..." Jeremy, first person narrator in Ian McEwan's BLACK DOGS, finds what he is searching for in June and Bernard Tremaine, parents of his wife Jenny.Placing the exploration of his in-laws' complicated relationship over five decades at the story's core around which the philosophical, spiritual and moral themes are continually gyrating, McEwan masterfully dissects the private sphere within and against the context of political developments in post-war Europe.

Jeremy, having agreed to assist the now ailing June to write her memoir, attempts to reach beyond her version of memories, by talking, in parallel to Bernard. For a better understanding of his own relationships, he needs to lead the couple back to the root-cause for their estrangement that has torn them apart, despite the strong emotional ties that have kept them, at times painfully, connected. McEwan's narration moves fluidly back and forth between the present discussions between June and Jeremy and the various pertinent timelines, going back to 1946 and the couple's honeymoon in a remote region of southern France.The black dogs of the title, introduced early on in the "Preface", reappear persistently throughout whether in June's dreams or in her recalling their appearance that so frightened her back then.While the actual circumstances are only revealed at the end of the book, in June's mind the dogs have evolved into something much more fundamental for her: a symbol of Menace and Evil that she has to counteract spiritually as best as she can.

There is much in this brief novel to capture the attention and imagination of the reader. The evocation of June's sense of happiness and fearful foreboding set against the beautiful, yet menacing barren landscape, is exquisite.McEwan convincingly contrasts June's and Bernard's opposing characters that the deep ties cannot mediate. "...a silly occultist and [...]a fish-eyed commissar.." is June's apt definition. Jeremy is a sensitively depicted, pleasant enough character who "is found by love" in his latethirties. However, several aspects of the book jarred for me and reduced the full engagement with the story and the characters. For example, the Preface reveals much important context beyond Jeremy, his relation to his wife and family and the events that led June and Bernard to move their lives into different directions: it already touches upon the core issues of the novel that might have had more impact on the reader were they to unfold slowly over the course of the narration. Furthermore, the novel's structure into four distinct Parts, deliberately disrupts the main narrative flows. While on the one hand allowing for a deeper exploration of specific time periods and political events, for example, the Fall of the Wall, they seem, on the other, to skew the balance of importance that these might have for the essence of the novel.Within the selection of these expansive semi-autonomous sub-stories that are identified by place and specific time, one can also detect a certain political slant. Highlighted are some less than probably and/or extreme circumstances that are in danger of reducing the authenticity of other aspects of the novel and, for this reader, affect the overall enjoyment of the book. Without revealing any story details, nothing more can be said about these here.However, the issue of balance between primary story and semi-autonomous sub-story becomes more prominent in later McEwan novels, for example Atonement: A Novel.[Friederike Knabe]

4-0 out of 5 stars Deep and satisfying reading
Ian McEwan's short novel, Black Dogs, is set upon the two historical poles of World War II and the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.At heart, it tackles the familiar questions of faith versus science and good versus evil.But as would be expected of an author of McEwan's caliber, it does so in a wonderfully unique way.

The narrator is a man named Jeremy, who, as we see in a preface, lost his parents at eight and has been searching for replacements every since.So it comes as no surprise that when he marries, he takes a keen interest in his in-laws, June and Bernard Tremaine, much to the chagrin of his wife, who has had to deal with her parent's struggles her whole life.These struggles form the core of the book, for Jeremy has volunteered to write a memoir of the pair.

The novel is broken into four episodes in different places and different times.The first is set in 1987.June has returned to England to die after living in France for most of her life.It is in a rest home that Jeremy begins his interviews with her, to put her story on paper.And it is also here that Jeremy begins to see that perspective is everything and his job may not be as easy as he thought.It is here and in the next section, set in Berlin in 1989 on the day the Wall fell, that we hear from both June and Bernard and begin to understand the source of their struggles.It is the Black Dogs of the title.

The pair married in 1946.They had come together through their love of communism, though we learn Bernard is more stringent in his beliefs than June.This slight difference however blows up into what would become of their relationship when June encountered a pair of large black dogs on their honeymoon in France.For her it is a life-changing event and would serve as reason to become a sort of spiritual hermit.She will then, after having three children, slowly turn into a real one, ultimately holing herself up full-time in the wilds of France to learn of the spiritual.But she and Bernard cannot even agree as to what happened with the dogs, or a story told them afterwards by the maire of the small village they stayed in the night of the encounter.

In the next two sections Jeremy tries to tie the pieces together by reminiscing about meeting his wife, Jenny, and then by walking the path in France that had changed June and Bernard's lives.As he goes, he hears the voices of June and Bernard in his head, arguing as always, but never getting to the root of an answer.But another encounter in France may finally give Jeremy some answers to questions about himself.

I think Black Dogs is McEwan's best composed novel, even better than his masterpiece Atonement.(My eyes perked at the sight of the word 'atonement' in this novel, and made me wonder if it were a coincidence or a sign of McEwan's meticulous planning.)Written in McEwan's always great prose and presented in such a deceptively simple format, Black Dogs is a wonderful and satisfying read, despite the ambiguity.It doesn't give us the answers, but, as Chekov would say, it asks the right questions.And it is deep in its meaning.It is a novel that you will keep you thinking for a long time.

5-0 out of 5 stars The Archaeology of Belief
I thought I had read all Ian McEwan's novels, but had missed this one from 1992. It is short (161 pages), it reads more like a memoir than a novel, but it opens a window on a writer wrestling with ideas of real substance, with the empathy to sense how these affect the lives of real human beings, and the mastery of style to charm, challenge, or shock. This is a book of intellectual substance, butit is seductively easy to read and -- despite its grim title and cover -- probably the most positive McEwan has so far written.

"Ever since I lost mine in a road accident when I was eight," begins the narrator, Jeremy, "I have had my eye on other people's parents." His preface is a kind of thank-you note to the parents of friends who have welcomed him into their homes and taught him as he was growing up. But he soon concentrates on one couple, Bernard and June Tremaine, the parents of his wife Jenny. The book is essentially a portrait of their marriage -- or rather, of the reason why their marriage broke up at the end of their honeymoon, causing them to live apart in two separate countries (England and France) for most of their lives, even though they continued to be attracted to one another and produced three children. Theirs was a union of opposites: "Rationalist and mystic, commissar and yogi, joiner and abstainer, scientist and intuitionist, Bernard and June are the extremities, the twin poles along whose slippery axis my own unbelief slithers and never comes to rest." Jeremy is an agnostic, yet this is a book about belief. He is primarily an observer, yet it is a book about political action. He was for many years a loner, yet in the end this is a book about love.

The moment when June and Bernard realized the differences in their beliefs came during their honeymoon in 1946, on a walking tour of the barren Cévennes mountains in the South of France. June's encounter with two black dogs in a rocky gorge is mentioned throughout the book, but it is only fully explained at the end. For her, it is a symbol of utter evil countered by mysterious good. Jeremy writes as an archaeological excavation to uncover the meaning of that epiphany. The facts are not in question; this is not a novel of plot and revelation. For Jeremy, it is a matter of refracting certain experiences in his life through June's prism, examining them with Bernard's more scientific lens, and comparing the two. He describes going with Bernard to Berlin as the Wall was coming down, a moment when celebration erupts into sudden violence. He describes a trip to the Majdanek camp shortly after he met Jenny, a visit that stuns him with his own reactions to the evil: "The extravagant numerical scale, the easy-to-say numbers -- tens and hundreds of thousands, millions -- denied the imagination its proper sympathies, its rightful grasp of the suffering, and one was drawn insidiously to the persecutors' premise, that life was cheap, junk to be inspected in heaps." He revisits the Cévennes, a harsh landscape but also a purifying one, and once again becomes embroiled in an apparently senseless act of violence. Every part of this book picks up themes from other parts, making one want to reread it immediately to admire the control behind its relaxed tone.

Perhaps because it was my last McEwan novel to read, I could not help seeing aspects of his other books reflected or foreshadowed here. There is the Berlin setting of THE INNOCENT, the mountain hiking of AMSTERDAM, the author shaping his subject as in ATONEMENT, the political awareness of SATURDAY, the couple who separate during their honeymoon as in ON CHESIL BEACH, and even a hint (in Bernard) of the protagonist of SOLAR. But the author who comes most to mind is WG Sebald, for his discovery of the power of a fictional memoir, as in AUSTERLITZ, and his patient archaeology of horror. But whereas Sebald incorporates grainy photographs to evoke the past, McEwan pulls even past events into an immediate present. His descriptions make photographs irrelevant; Google his locations in the Cévennes, for example, and you will find them exactly as his words had conjured them. And while horror certainly has a part in McEwan's world, the final quality to emerge from his archaeological dig is sheer unadulterated joy.

3-0 out of 5 stars Ian McEwan
Ian McEwan's novel "Black Dogs" is not as good as
most of his work.I always look forward to his
books since I read "Saturday" but this was not as
engaging. ... Read more

4. Saturday
by Ian McEwan
Paperback: 304 Pages (2006-04-11)
list price: US$14.95 -- used & new: US$4.39
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1400076196
Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France | Japan
Editorial Review

Product Description
In his triumphant new novel, Ian McEwan, the bestselling author of Atonement, follows an ordinary man through a Saturday whose high promise gradually turns nightmarish. Henry Perowne–a neurosurgeon, urbane, privileged, deeply in love with his wife and grown-up children–plans to play a game of squash, visit his elderly mother, and cook dinner for his family. But after a minor traffic accident leads to an unsettling confrontation, Perowne must set aside his plans and summon a strength greater than he knew he had in order to preserve the life that is dear to him. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (325)

5-0 out of 5 stars Probably the best novel....
Yes, I'd say one of the best novel written in over 20 years...NOT including his ATONMENT, CHILD IN TIME.Mr. McEwan's prose is sheer poetry and his writing puts the reader in the world he's creatated and you can tell by his meticulous research.He captivates such an atmosphere and makes the reader study each page.I feel he's well overdue the Nobel Prize just for these three novels on their own.

2-0 out of 5 stars All parts. No whole.
This book had a plot but it was used like a clothesline upon which to hang vignettes (each of which was a description of one character, one family member). Each vignette could have been a short story. But I wasn't planning on reading a collection of short stories. The vignettes intruded even in the more intense moments in the story--like when they stop to sing a song in a musical-- just exactly when you want to know what is going to happen next. I guess the plot wasn't supposed to be the thing that mattered.
There was also a lot of stream of consciousness. It was all thought provoking. (Maybe it will turn out that it was good that we went to Irac!) But the topics didn't seem to come together in a common thread that was perceptible to me.
I am a neurologist and I thought he did very well on the neuroanatomical parts, but I kept wondering why anyone would want to become so prodigiously familiar with that material, just to write a story and then go on with other things.
It is true that he writes wonderfully. But I thought that it was mostly parts and not so much whole.

5-0 out of 5 stars Contemplation of life by middle-aged London surgeon
For those of "a certain age," mortality begins to come into view. With his career goals attained and his two children launched, the fleeting nature of life in a tumultuous political world of post-9/11 increasingly informs all the thoughts and actions of the neurosurgeon protagonist of this short novel. McEwan's introspective style and his superb character development are McEwan's trademarks, and this is one of his best. A tome for those who prefer John le Carre' over Ian Fleming.

5-0 out of 5 stars A masterly clinical and reflectivel analysis of mental processes
Henry Perowne is a successful neurosurgeon who not only expertly deals with diseases of the mind but strives to understand the nature of his own mental processes - his fears and conflicts - through self analysis and reflection, by reviewing his past and relating it to the present. He awakens late at night and stands naked at a window while his wife continues sleeping, observing the scene outside, and at the same time reflecting about life with his wife, daughter and son, his life as a surgeon, his relationship with his colleagues and some surgical procedures, which are later expertly and clinically described as the novel develops. The time is the controversial period of the Blair government's decision to join Australia in supporting the invasion of Iraq by the US. While ruminating he observes what appears to be a comet in the sky, which later turns out to be a aircraft with an engine on fire. He imagines an imminent disaster but in reality this is not the case.

Threats become reality for Perowne when he becomes involved in a collision with another vehicle - with minor damage to both - but the other driver, Baxter, is a thug who demands money - creating a threatening confrontation which seems to be diffused when Perowne realizes Baxter has Huntington's disease. Perowne's fear is replaced with compassion, despite Baxter's continuing resentment and aggression. It seems the incident is over when Baxter retreats, but this is not the case. The entire episode leading up to, during, and after the confrontatation is described in almost excrutiating but fascinating detail - like a slow motion replay.

Baxter invades Perowne's home, threatens his family with a knife, injures Perowne's wife and father-in-law,'Grammaticus', before Perowne subdues him. Baxter suffers brain damage when he falls down some stairs. The climax of the novel concerns Perowne's duty as a human being - or surgeon - to save Baxter's life.The Learning Process: Some Creative Impressions stairs.

1-0 out of 5 stars Insufferably boring
Saturday is one of the most tedious novels I've had the misfortune to read in years.I loved the first half of McEwan's Atonement, though I felt the second half was ruined by too many repetitive war and hospital scenes, and a subtle shift in narrative that struck me as forced.Saturday, however, is composed of nothing but pointless detail (if you like descriptions of a man going to the bathroom, flushing, and choosing socks, this is the book for you) and conflict that leads nowhere and results in nothing.I'm so glad I read the terrible reviews of this book on Amazon and saved myself the chore of reading the last third.I skipped straight to the last page and felt I'd got the gist of it, which is essentially a lot of pretentious navel-gazing.What a disappointment. ... Read more

5. On Chesil Beach
by Ian McEwan
Paperback: 224 Pages (2008-06-10)
list price: US$14.00 -- used & new: US$2.99
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0307386171
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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In 1962, Florence and Edward celebrate their wedding in a hotel on the Dorset coast. Yet as they dine, the expectation of their marital duties weighs over them. And unbeknownst to both, the decisions they make this night will resonate throughout their lives. With exquisite prose, Ian McEwan creates in On Chesil Beach a story of lives transformed by a gesture not made or a word not spoken.Amazon.com Review
Such is Ian McEwan's genius that, despite rambling nature walks and the naming of birds, his subject matter remains hermetically sealed in the hearts of two people.

It is 1962 when Edward and Florence, 23 and 22 respectively, marry and repair to a hotel on the Dorset coast for their honeymoon. They are both virgins, both apprehensive about what's next and in Florence's case, utterly and blindly terrified and repelled by the little she knows. Through a tense dinner in their room, because Florence has decided that the weather is not fine enough to dine on the terrace, they are attended by two local boys acting as waiters. The cameo appearances of the boys and Edward and Florence's parents and siblings serve only to underline the emotional isolation of the two principals. Florence says of herself: "...she lacked some simple mental trick that everyone else had, a mechanism so ordinary that no one ever mentioned it, an immediate sensual connection to people and events, and to her own needs and desires...."

They are on the cusp of a rather ordinary marital undertaking in differing states of readiness, willingness and ardor. McEwan says: "Where he merely suffered conventional first-night nerves, she experienced a visceral dread, a helpless disgust as palpable as seasickness." Edward, having denied himself even the release of self-pleasuring for a week, in order to be tip-top for Florence, is mentally pawing the ground. His sensitivity keeps him from being obvious, but he is getting anxious. Florence, on the other hand, knows that she is not capable of the kind of arousal that will make any of this easy. She has held Edward off for a year, and now the reckoning is upon her.

McEwan is the master of the defining moment, that place and time when, once it has taken place, nothing will ever be the same after it. It does not go well and Florence flees the room. "As she understood it, there were no words to name what had happened, there existed no shared language in which two sane adults could describe such events to each other." Edward eventually follows her and they have a poignant and painful conversation where accusations are made, ugly things are said and roads are taken from which, in the case of these two, the way back cannot be found. Late in Edward's life he realizes: "Love and patience--if only he had them both at once--would surely have seen them both through." This beautifully told sad story could have been conceived and written only by Ian McEwan. --Valerie Ryan ... Read more

Customer Reviews (256)

3-0 out of 5 stars A dreary and tedious little experimental novel.
Two redundantly boring but fearful newlyweds test out sexual intercourse. It does not go well. Lovemaking is awkward and ends with a disgusting premature ejaculation. Separately they run out into the night, onto the pebbly beach by their seaside hotel. Florence, a talented concert musician, suggests they try just living together, in what a few years later would be called an open marriage. Edward, a recent history graduate, is appalled and angered at the suggestion. They dissolve their marriage and never see each other again, though they do think of each other in after years with wistful regret. End of story.

The author's slow work-up to the bad climax--recounting in painstaking detail how they met, how they were raised, and how each one feared the challenges of life without ever learning to articulate that fear--parallels the young couple's frustration as they approach the wedding bed. It is a clever literary trick, but not one I would like to see repeated. Tease us for ten pages if you wish, but not for a hundred-plus. Usually McEwan's lush prose quickly engages me with the lives of his stiff, self-absorbed characters, but here all his rolling exposition just made my eyes glaze over.

McEwan's main goal, I think, was to give us a slice of cultural history. He wanted to tell us about a state of mind that prevailed among middle-class newlyweds up to the mid-1960s. For McEwen, young men and women saw marriage as an opportunity to take on a new but recognizable role, a role that could be learned out of a book, like those cloying advice booklets on sex that Florence reads. Supple, creative, articulate thinking is beyond Florence and Edward's ability. I feel McEwen overstates his case. He makes Florence and Edward duller, in every way, than they really had to be. Maybe even more than they could have been, given that they've just come out of several years of conservatory and university in central London.

Finally, the end of the story is unnecessarily disappointing. It's another tricky downer, like the ending of Atonement, where you find out that the brief but happy wartime romance never actually took place.

4-0 out of 5 stars hilarious and beautiful depiction of human emotions
this was my first shot at a McEwan book and though it wasn't what i was expecting, i really did enjoy it.i honestly don't know what i was expecting, but this wasn't it! but, the crispness of the writing style and his wry and dry sense of humor had me hooked early and i'll definitely be giving his other books a try.

set in the early 1960s on the wedding night of Edward and Florence, we follow the split narration of the newlyweds in their growing anxiety regarding the consummation of their wedding.Edward has the expected anticipation of his first performance and Florence is absolutely horrified with the idea, yet willing to try to be the dutiful wife that she knows she must be.at times hilarious and other times aching with the sadness that can only come when you really don't know your partner all that well, this is a rather perverse attempt at sexual education that i'm glad i read.layered throughout, is also the mirroring of postwar Britain, in all its glory.

the characters were not likable and i don't think that was ever the intention.they are both entirely self absorbed and by getting to hear their inner monologue, we can see how very little they know about themselves and each other.but, really, isn't this still the case in very young couples?the often graphic descriptions of the impending sexual encounter may be too much for some readers, either disgusting or crude, but i thought it served to provide enough shock factor and entertainment to be highly readable.but, i can see how some might disagree...

"All she had needed was the certainty of his love, and his reassurance that there was no hurry when a lifetime lay ahead of them."

the writing style was everything i could have hoped for and more.McEwan has a way of making sentences and phrases flow so effortlessly and it's beautiful to read (or listen to, as was my case).i can definitely see how, given a book of more depth, that his writing could be absolutely magnetic and i can't wait to pick up his other books.that being said, i was absolutely amazed at the depth and complexity of this tiny little book and was wholly impressed with McEwan's ability to capture the essence of time and space in such a small space of his own.

"But it was too interesting, too new, too flattering, too deeply comforting to resist, it was a liberation to be in love and say so."

the audio was wonderful! the production was excellent and hearing the reading in McEwan's own voice really added to the book for me.had i read the book, it would have been in my American voice (obviously) and hearing it in his lovely British accent really added to that essence of time and space that i mentioned earlier.i would definitely recommend this to anyone interested.

3-0 out of 5 stars Artistic writing, intriguing story, but completely laborious to read
The concept of this story is interesting, but I felt like I was trudging through mud to get through it. I like a story that keeps me captivated and I read to be entertained and informed. This book, like Atonement, has so much description that, in my opinion, it detracts from the flow of the story. The entire book takes place in less than a single day, if that helps explain what I mean about a lot of description and detail. That being said, however, it does offer a compelling insight into the human psyche. McEwan explores the depths (literally every step from the surface to the bottom) of the human mind and the feelings, fears and thoughts associated with "the" honeymoon night of a newlywed couple.

So depending on what you are looking for, you may or may not enjoy this book. If you want a great story, stay away, especially if you are looking for romance. If you are looking for pyschological stimulation and more artistic prose, this may be the book for you. I would say this book is interesting, just not really entertaining.

5-0 out of 5 stars Outstanding
After his brilliant novel Atonement(that not even a horrible movie based on it manged to destroy), I was weary of reading anything else by Ian McEwan. You never know if a writer is one of those people who manage to create one great work of literature and then keep trying to feed on its fame. Still, I decided to risk being disappointed with McEwan's On Chesil Beach. It turned out to be one of the best reading decisions I could have made.

On Chesil Beach is a fantastic novel. It tells the story of two newlyweds who, on their wedding day in the summer of 1962, are preparing to have sex for the first time in both of their lives. Neither of them knows what sex is like, they are both scared, and the bride finds the idea of having sex with the groom extremely disgusting, in spite of thinking that she "loves" him. The couple's lack of knowledge about sex turns their wedding night into an unmitigated disaster.

If it seems surprising to you that in 1962, of all times, anybody would be naive enough to mistake something like this for love and even want to get married on the basis of such an evident lack of physical desire, think about how many people buy into the religious propaganda of abstinence before marriage. Imagine how many people - even today - are going through the following self-torture for the sake of some vaguely defined social requirements: "They whispered their 'I love yous.' It soothed her to be invoking, however quietly, the unfading formula that bound them, and that surely proved their interests were identical. She wondered if perhaps she might even make it through, and be strong enough to pretend convincingly, and on later, successive occasions whittle her anxieties away through sheer familiarity, until she could honestly find and give pleasure."

It becomes clear soon enough that where desire is lacking, there can be no love. The struggle to understand the other person, resolve problems, forgive, try to figure things out is fruitless if people do not experience a powerful physical attraction to each other. If this kind of desire is lacking, the motivation to keep trying is just as big as the one a person would have with a neighbor or a simple acquaintance. As a result, Florence and Edward discover that their relationship dies a painful but a very fast death in the first few hours of their marriage.

I believe that any sex ed in high schools should begin by an obligatory reading of On Chesil Beach. There are so many people even today who mess up their lives completely because they mistake simple friendship for love and try to force a romantic, physical relationship where there is no foundation for it in actual physical desire. There are many people who, like Florence, force themselves to suffer through sexual acts with people they find repulsive for the sake of this castrated definition of love.

As hilarious as this book is, it also raises some very important issues. On Chesil Beach is one of the most insightful things I have read in a long time about the crippling nature of the puritanical understanding of love.

4-0 out of 5 stars A brilliant little book!
Such a brilliant little book. On Chesil Beach captures the heart-felt feelings of Edward and Florence, newlyweds, as they honeymoon on the coast. I would not say this is a happy book, on the contrary. McEwan never misses an opportunity to point out to us how close this couple came to happiness. Instead, we are taken along on their sad path watching as happiness spirals out of their reach forever. How true to life this is for so many of us. ... Read more

6. Enduring Love: A Novel
by Ian McEwan
Paperback: 272 Pages (1998-12-29)
list price: US$15.00 -- used & new: US$5.89
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0385494149
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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On a windy spring day in the Chilterns, the calm, organized life of science writer Joe Rose is shattered when he witnesses a tragic accident: a hot-air balloon with a boy trapped in its basket is being tossed by the wind, and in the attempt to save the child, a man is killed. A stranger named Jed Parry joins Rose in helping to bring the balloon to safety. But unknown to Rose, something passes between Parry and himself on that day--something that gives birth to an obsession in Parry so powerful that it will test the limits of Rose's beloved rationalism, threaten the love of his wife, Clarissa, and drive him to the brink of murder and madness. Brilliant and compassionate, this is a novel of love, faith, and suspense, and of how life can change in an instant.Amazon.com Review
Joe Rose has planned a postcard-perfect afternoon in theEnglish countryside to celebrate his lover's return after six weeks inthe States. To complete the picture, there's even a "heliumballoon drifting dreamily across the wooded valley." But as Joeand Clarissa watch the balloon touch down, their idyll comes to anabrupt end. The pilot catches his leg in the anchor rope, while theonly passenger, a boy, is too scared to jump down. As the wind whipsinto action, Joe and four other men rush to secure the basket. MotherNature, however, isn't feeling very maternal. "A mighty fistsocked the balloon in two rapid blows, one-two, the second morevicious than the first," and at once the rescuers are airborne.Joe manages to drop to the ground, as do most of his companions, butone man is lifted sky-high, only to fall to his death.

In itself, the accident would change the survivors' lives, filling them with anuneasy combination of shame, happiness, and endless self-reproach. (Inone of the novel's many ironies, the balloon eventually lands safely,the boy unscathed.) But fate has far more unpleasant things in storefor Joe. Meeting the eye of fellow rescuer Jed Parry, for example,turns out to be a very bad move. For Jed is instantly obsessed, makingthe first of many calls to Joe and Clarissa's London flat that verynight. Soon he's openly shadowing Joe and writing him endlessletters. (One insane epistle begins, "I feel happiness runningthrough me like an electrical current. I close my eyes and see you asyou were last night in the rain, across the road from me, with theunspoken love between us as strong as steel cable.") Worst ofall, Jed's version of love comes to seem a distortion of Joe'sfeelings for Clarissa.

Apart from the incessant stalking, it isthe conditionals--the contingencies--that most frustrate Joe, ascientific journalist. If only he and Clarissa had gone straight homefrom the airport... If only the wind hadn't picked up... If only hehad saved Jed's 29 messages in a single day... Ian McEwan has longbeen a poet of the arbitrary nightmare, his characters ineluctablyswept up in others' fantasies, skidding into deepening violence,and--worst of all--becoming strangers to those who love them. Even hisprose itself is a masterful and methodical exercise indefamiliarization. But Enduring Love and its underratedpredecessor, Black Dogs, are also meditations on knowledge andperception as well as brilliant manipulations of our ownexpectations. By the novel's end, you will be surprisingly unafraid ofhot-air balloons, but you won't be too keen on looking a stranger inthe eye. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (176)

5-0 out of 5 stars A disturbing creepynovel that is masterfully plotted and written
Enduring Love is evidence that Ian McEwan is one of the most talented contemporary authors in the English language. Like his wonderful book, Atonement, Enduring Love is a masterpiece. The story is compelling and grows in tension from chapter to chapter. Yet there are mysteries inside of mysteries that work themselves to the surface as the story progresses. Like Shakespeare, McEwan also uses comic relief to wonderful effect in a scene with free love hippies fighting each other after selling the protagonist an illegal weapon.
A terrible accident and tragedy initiates the book and brings Joe in first contact with Jeb, his obsessed tormentor. Joe has adopted a scientific biological deterministic view of sexual relationships, love, and love making. He is a science writer who thinks the natural world can certainly be explained through deterministic concepts. Thus he sees romantic love as a purely biologically driven impulse created so that humans would reproduce. He continues to expound on this biological determinism, often in front of his lover at dinner parties, and seems to be unaware of the manner in which he is killing the lust in his relationship by continually referring to it through biological determinism rather than as a human experience that is extremely difficult to reduce to any one philosophical perspective.
The encounter between Joe and Jed is a multi-dimensional encounter. One approach would be that Joe has encountered the very thing he has expressed in his journalism, that sexual obsession is a driving biologically driven force that is beyond rational control in some situations. Yet, when Joe is actually confronted with the power of such a biologically driven obsessive attachment, he gradually becomes rattled and thrown off-center emotionally. He becomes as mad as the mad man that has fallen so deeply in love with him. This first dimension of this book's underlying structure would be rationality confronting determinism.
Another approach would be the Jungian interpretation that Jeb represents Joe's dark shadow.Joe expounds biological determinism because he wishes to be beyond its control. The appearance of Jeb proves him wrong. In Jungian psychology, the more the conscious mind tries to suppress the shadow, the creepier the shadow becomes as it stalks the ego, seeking acceptance. Thus the film could be interpreted as classic Jungian psychology. This second dimension of this book's underlying structure would be the ego confronting the shadow.
A third approach would be based on the ancient Greek concept of the Furies, those terrible tormenting images that follow the guilty around and plague them with feelings of guilt and remorse. Joe was one of the 4 men that let go of the red balloon. Whereas the pediatrician hung on and dies from the fall, if all had held on, the boy might have been saved.Joe is tormented as to whether he let go of the balloon first, telling himself repeatedly that he was not the first to let go. The grief and remorse impact his judgment. Joe spends hours drawing balloons, cutting balloons out of magazines, and pinning balloon images up on his office bulletin board. Thus Jed is a Fury, a mythological creature come to haunt Joe's life for the sin of being the first to let go of the red balloon.
These three interpretations are also interwoven with contemporary mental health concepts such as post-traumatic stress disorder, a diagnosis that Claire offers to Joe.The contemporary social phenomenon of the `stalker' is also evident. Jed could be seen as a stalker of Joe. The observation that all of these interpretations are interwoven into this film's narrative is part of the book's strength.
Jed, revealing slowly and incrementally the extent of his insane obsession, becomes more threatening and disturbing with each chapter. As Jed becomes more blatantly confrontive and Joe becomes more threatened, those around him don't fully understand the external and internal drama that Joe is encountering.
The craftsmanship of McEwan's writing is evident in every word choice in the book. The book is excellent.

5-0 out of 5 stars Could not put it down!
I have read several of Ian McEwan's books and this one is by far his best.It's the kind of story you read and ask "who sits around and dreams this stuff up?"McEwan is a master.I could not put the book down.The story itself is quite simple.It's the psychological aspects to the story that hook you.The magic is in the details, in the descriptions of thoughts and feelings, in the flawed characters who so vividly come to life."Enduring Love" is a wonderful ride, all the way to the last page.

5-0 out of 5 stars A thrilling book with depth
There is so much in this book that it's difficult to describe in a brief review.I thought it was an excellent novel particularly as McEwan paints scenes so vividly with his words.Some chapters were so clearly described that I felt physically sickened because it was all so vivid and real.

On a superficial level the book is a great suspense filled thriller but beneath that McEwan weaves many philosophical themes: science and the conflict with religion, obsessions, love, relationships, art vs science and finding truth.McEwan includes depth throughout the book with hidden or double meanings to many aspects of his writing.Even the title has depth in its meaning.

One of my favourite parts of the book is chapter 3 where the character of Joe describes how the conversations that he and his wife Clarissa have to come to terms with the shocking event that the book starts with in chapter 1: "But we backed away from the moment again and again, circling it, stalking it until we had it cornered and began to tame it with words."I can really identify with that myself.Experiencing a shocking situation, I would come to terms with it myself by talking about it and talking about it from various angles until it was "tamed".

I don't feel the need to read many books twice, simply because there are so many other great books out there to be discovered, but this book was so excellent and so complex in many ways that I'm sure I'll be reading it again.I'm sure there is much that I have missed that could be appreciated more in a second reading.

Highly recommended.

3-0 out of 5 stars Did not live up to the hype for me
There are many admirable things about the book, including beautiful language, gripping plot and interesting ideas on fragility and relativity of love, trust, faith and reason.

However I did not feel that these pieces come together to create a whole and believable picture.The crack in the relationship between Joe and Clarissa feels too abrupt and implausible. Clarissa's character is not developed or explained enough to support her reactions and conclusions, and on the whole many of the main characters' behaviors seem manufactured and flat.

3-0 out of 5 stars Like all Ian McEwan books, the story is amazing. The micro-mass-market-sized print, however, not so much.
I am reviewing the product and in this case "product" is this particular edition of the book and primarily the print, itself. It seems as if the publisher simply wanted to sell a mass-market print at trade price. I looked though my trade paperbacks and the print in this one is far smaller and even smaller than most of my mass-market sized books. I am fine with it, but I was a bit disappointed. I love the book and would gladly give the content 4/5 stars, but I wanted to share my issue with the print size. In this case, it might be worth going hardcover or maybe even the visiting the library and passing on the purchase altogether. My eyes are not getting any younger:)
... Read more

7. The Comfort of Strangers
by Ian McEwan
Paperback: 128 Pages (1994-11-01)
list price: US$14.00 -- used & new: US$6.40
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0679749845
Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
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As their holiday unfolds, Colin and Maria are locked into their own intimacy. They groom themselves meticulously, as though someone is waiting for them who cares deeply about how they appear. When they meet a man with a disturbing story to tell, they become drawn into a fantasy of violence and obsession. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (65)

1-0 out of 5 stars Toe-curlingly embarrassing
I have been a great fan of Ian McEwan's novels for many years and I came across The Comfort of Strangers completely unaware that it was one of his early efforts. I started it full of the expectation which I naturally reserve for a favourite writer.

I hadn't got far into it before the alarm bells started ringing.

Quick plot summary. Two very strange and stupid people go on holiday and meet two lunatics who do really horrible things to them for no apparent reason.

Colin and Mary are on holiday in Venice. They are not speaking and we never find out why. They are preparing for their ritual evening of cocktails followed by dinner. They seem vague, detached, disinterested and bored. This could be interesting as there is so much not said. Don't hold your breath. Well, anyway they suddenly forgive each other and decide to make love (and what a lacklustre event this is) which delays their plans for the evening. Now here the author would have us believe that all the restaurants in one of the top tourist destinations in the world are closed by 9pm. Colin and Mary know this too but they go out anyway. They have been lost many times before but they don't take the maps.(What?) They get lost. They meet a stranger called Robert who won't stop touching them - so much that they both ask him to stop. They go to a gay bar with him. There is no food in this bar (the cook is ill) so they drink several bottles of wine. Robert tells them his life story. Conveniently, Robert speaks English extraordinarily well which absolves Colin and Mary of the necessity of being fluent in Italian. His father and his beastly sisters very unkind to him.

They leave the bar (Robert disappears) and they continue being lost. They sleep in the street.(What?) They wake up very thirsty. They can't find a cafe in Venice.(What?) They go to the hospital because they might be able to get a drink of water.(What?) Nothing happens but now they don't appear to be lost so much so they decide to head back to the hotel via St Mark's Square. Hey presto, there are some cafes here! They are still very very thirsty (indeed Mary's lips are cracked) but the nasty waiter won't give them any water.(What?) He does tell them where there is a tap but they ignore this and stay and order coffee. Robert happens to walk past and he invites them to his place. They accept and leave in a boat with him before their coffee arrives.

[If I may just interrupt here to say that I have been to Italy several times (including Venice) and the standard response when you ask for water is 'Si, Signore, aqua minerale o gassata?' - 'Yes sir, mineral water or fizzy?']

Colin and Mary wake up in Robert's house and they can't find their clothes.(What?) Mary does some shoulder stands anyway with nothing on.(What?) She finds a nightie so she goes on a tour of the house leaving Colin naked and alone. She meets Robert's wife Caroline who gives her many sandwiches to eat. Mary doesn't mention Colin who is still alone and naked in the bedroom and who apparently hasn't eaten anything for about 36 hours. The two women discuss murder. (As you do). Colin joins them wearing only a handtowel. Caroline tells them she has been looking at them while they were asleep and naked.(What?) She invites them to dinner and they accept.(What?)

During drinks before dinner Robert punches Colin in the stomach and he collapses on the floor.(What?) Colin does not question this.(What?) They continue with cocktails during which Robert fondles Colin's shoulders.(What?) After dinner Caroline invites them to return and they accept.(What?) She explains that she can't leave the house because she is so badly injured. No-one asks what happened to her.(What?)It turns out later that she has masochistic tendencies and she never really got over that last broken back (Huh?)

Colin and Mary return to their hotel and, inexplicably, indulge in a 4-day frenzy of sex and gluttony.(What?) At meal times they have 1½ courses each and 2 bottles of wine each. Not one hangover or bout of vomiting is mentioned. (Now, I don't know about you but I reckon Colin must be made of very stern stuff if he can consume such a vast amount of alcohol and still manage to ravish his girlfriend several times a day for four days). They discuss orgasms. Colin reveals that he has an aching emptiness somewhere between his scrotum and his anus.(Good grief! Do we really need to know this?)

The next morning Mary reveals that while they were at Robert and Caroline's for dinner she saw a photo of Colin that Robert showed her. She apparently didn't ask Robert how he came to have this, nor did she didn't mention it then to Colin or during the next 4 days.(What?) She is very frightened. Colin would understandably be a bit spooked too but his reaction isn't mentioned.

On a completely overcast day (the sky is described as being black!) Colin and Mary decide to go to the beach. Just before they leave Colin sticks his finger deep inside Mary,(What?) but they remind each other they are going to the beach and they pull apart to pack the towels. They have a bitch of a time finding a spot on the beach but they do and then Mary nearly drowns. Well, no actually she wasn't drowning at all - she was just having a lovely swim but Colin was absolutely certain she was in peril and spent ages stroking out to save her, nearly drowning himself in the process.(What?)

On the way back they decide not to go all the way round the island so they get off the boat at a different stop and who should they run into? That's right. Those two loonies. So what do they do in their infinite wisdom? They go into their house.(Oh God almighty!)

Need I go on?

The grisly denouement is just as bizarre as the rest of it and will leave you scratching your head with mystification.

4-0 out of 5 stars The Not-so-good, the Bad, & the Very Ugly in Venice
One of the most troubling works--because its values are so elusive & contradictory--that I've read in the past few years.
THE COMFORT OF STRANGERS is now almost thirty years old...and tho' it has aged better than many works of literature from the early Eighties, it remains deeply troubling.
Why this should be so is difficult to establish, for this short, slight novel is a tale of innocuous fools consumed in Venice by a most malignant Death.A catastrophe no less grotesque in that it almost seems deserved...For all of the meticulous care with which he portrays their descent into a web of horrors (along with elements of profound xenophobia and homophobia) he--McEwan/the author--remains like Joyce's deity--indifferent, paring His nails, perhaps pulling the wings off an unwary fly that has buzzed too near...and one is at best only able to take consolation in the fate of these Imbeciles in Venice by imagining that we are not so gullible, oblivious, addled.

As this book shows, McEwan is a monstrous talent as a writer.I emphasize "monstrous", and will leave it at that. Because all that one comes away with from this grim, very depressing work, is just that: this man CAN certainly write.
Still, the sharpest impression left by my reading of THE COMFORT OF STRANGERS is one of sheer futility & meaninglessness.An atmosphere, perspective (Cosmic nihilism), which may have seemed sexier in the stoned late Seventies/early Eighties period than it does in our all-too-blood-drenched era.

Thus, to react as a human being, one only wishes--perhaps feebly--that McEwan had not devoted his considerable artistry to such a dismal, pointless exercise.One which, in the end, is no more rewarding to read than a homicide report; clinical, precise, and as clammy as a corpse...

4-0 out of 5 stars ominous pull of dark nature
This book is hard to define and I changed my mind several times about it while I was reading it.As always, the author's incredibly sharp observations and insight are written eloquently, poetically and very economically in this short story---the subtle and gradual drifting apart of the protagonists in their stable and yet monotonous relationships, and the magnatic pull of the mysteriously unfamiliar which sparks their relationship, and then the ending...OMG! I will not spoil, you will just have to read and enjoy.

5-0 out of 5 stars A "Death In Venice" McEwan Style
McEwan's book "The Comfort of Strangers" is certainly a macabre piece of literature.Yet the book so closely resembles the Thomas Mann masterpiece that it is virtually impossible to ignore the analog.The origins of McEwan's book are in fact thinly disguised.Firstly, the story takes place in what appears to be Venice although McEwan never actually states that, but by descriptions of the City and the canals and restaurants and churches, one would be hard-pressed to consider the location anywhere but Venice.

As in Mann's novella, the protagonist of McEwan's novella is there on vacation.McEwan's main character is a man named Colin.He is there with his wife Mary and they are scheduled to be there for around 10 days or so.They seem to live a life of total relaxation and even debauchery in the sense that they seem to sleep all day and rise a little before dinner and go out and find new restaurants.Yet the couple has relational and intimacy problems that are ephemeral and probably toxic to their marriage.At the beginning of their stay in Venice they have very little sexual contact, but this increases as their time there elongates.The study McEwan portrays of their sexuality very much puts the book into a Freudian analysis, much like Mann's book.Mann was much more focused on repressed male homosexual urges than McEwan seems to be, although the longer the reader engages the novella, the more the interest in homosexual interaction increases.

During the second half of the book, the protagonist meets a native who owns a bar and who seems to find Colin lost in the city at night time, without his maps.Little does Colin know that his new friend has in fact been watching him and even photographing him for several days.Robert is taken by Colin and pursues him until he can invite him to his home and feed him and Mary.Then escort them back to their hotel.Yet Robert and his wife Coraline are skillfully assisted in reeling Colin and Mary into returning by alleging in a rather secretive manner that Caroline is being abused by Robert and insinuating that she needs the help of Colin and Mary to save her very life.

Then several days later, Mary and Colin find themselves again in front of Robert's house and they are invited inside.When they get inside, they have found that the house is virtually empty and it seems as though Robert is going to sell the house.In fact, Caroline explains that they are selling the house and visiting her family in Canada.However, Caroline goes on to explain to Mary a much more subliminal reality.She talks to Mary about how Robert does abuse her, but only during the act of sex.In fact, he not only abuses her, but he even at one point broke her back so she is no longer able to go up stairs.Caroline's story reveals her secret world in which men dream of sadistically treating woman in sex and women dream of masochistically being abused in sex.

McEwan again imitates Mann in his ending.In Mann's book, Aschenbach does not leave Venice, despite a plague warning and eventually does succumb to the plague and dies.In McEwan's book, Mary and Robert are drugged and the effect is much the same as that produced by a raging fever that overcomes Aschenbach in Mann's book.Finally, during this drug induced virtual hypnotic state, Mary observes Robert kill Colin and leave him for dead.In Mann's book, Aschenbach dies of plague while his young male lover Tadzio leaves for his next vacation stop.

Many people have found McEwan's book "creepy" and "brutal."Yet what McEwan has done is to use a great master's story and yet update it so that it is more acceptable and comprehensible to a modern day audience.Those who fail to pick up McEwan's message in the book surely have little or no exposure to the side of life that the author is trying to portray and certainly have not read "Death In Venice."Thus the reader must be somewhat sophisticated in their understanding of human character and even better, familiar with Thomas Mann's "Death In Venice" to truly appreciate what McEwan has created with this novella.The book is highly recommended to a reading audience with wide and intellectual tastes in fiction.The illustration of Mann's work in a modern day setting is truly masterfully accomplished.

4-0 out of 5 stars A great deal of menace packed into very few pages. Spooky!
Atonement was the high point.

Saturday was a good idea, but the last half is ludicrous --- a Lifetime movie plot.

You'd never know of On Chesil Beach if England's most famous fiction writer had not been its author.

Solar, his new book, has --- ha, ha, ha --- a scientist losing a vital organ in the cold; thanks, I'll pass.

If you've just started reading Ian McEwan --- or if you've read "Atonement" and want to read more --- the direction to look is back. In the 1980s and 1990s, McEwan wrote a series of novels that made his reputation. They're spooky, crisply written and sharply observed --- and though they're short, they're unforgettable.

I'm thinking of Amsterdam and The Cement Garden, but mostly I'm thinking of The Comfort of Strangers [for the Kindle edition], which, in just 128 pages, takes you from a peaceful vacation down the highway of menace into --- but let me not spoil the "fun".

Colin and Mary. Longtime lovers, not married. In Venice for a month.

"They dutifully fulfilled the many tasks of tourism the ancient city imposed."

"They passed many hours searching for `ideal' restaurants."

"And with each step the city would recede as they locked tighter into each other's presence."

If you have traveled with a lover, you've been there. Because travel focuses two people on shared experience --- away from home, with no obligations, we look outward but turn inward.

Colin and Mary have been together for some years and no longer have a great passion. "The pleasure was in its unhurried friendliness, the familiarity of its rituals and procedures, the secure precision-fit of limbs and bodies, comfortable, like a cast returned to its mold." Arguments? They're conducted in silence. And why not? This is a pleasant vacation for Colin and Mary --- they're each other's comfortable shoes.

Then they get lost and meet Robert. Black shirt, open to the waist. A "thick pelt of chest hair." A "gold imitation razor blade" on a chain around his neck. He leads them to a bar he owns. And they begin "to experience the pleasure, unique to tourists, of finding themselves in a place without tourists, of making a discovery, finding somewhere real."

Robert is forceful, and off they go to his home, where they meet his wife Caroline. Who has some interesting views about love: "By `in love' I mean you'd do anything for the other person, and.... And you'd let them do anything to you."

Outta there! But back at the hotel, the vacation has changed for Colin and Mary --- they can't get enough of one another. One day. Two. Three. Four days in the hotel room, and it's all physical: talking about it, sharing fantasies, but mostly, doing it, over and over. And you just know that something about Robert and Caroline set this in motion, and that Mary and Colin are going to see them again before they go....

If you have a problem with depravity, this is so not the book for you. But if you're willing to be disturbed --- even aroused --- by ideas and acts far removed from everything you know, dive in.

Let me phrase this consumer warning in other terms. When Paul Schrader was casting the movie of "Comfort of Strangers," he chose Rupert Everett and Natasha Richardson as Colin and Mary. He cast Helen Mirren as Caroline. And as Robert? Christopher Walken. Need I say more? ... Read more

8. The Child in Time
by Ian McEwan
Paperback: 272 Pages (1999-11-02)
list price: US$14.95 -- used & new: US$7.54
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0385497520
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Stephen Lewis, a successful writer of children's books, is confronted with the unthinkable: his only child, three-year-old Kate, is snatched from him in a supermarket. In one horrifying moment that replays itself over the years that follow, Stephen realizes his daughter is gone.

With extraordinary tenderness and insight, Booker Prize–winning author Ian McEwan takes us into the dark territory of a marriage devastated by the loss of a child. Kate's absence sets Stephen and his wife, Julie, on diverging paths as they each struggle with a grief that only seems to intensify with the passage of time. Eloquent and passionate, the novel concludes in a triumphant scene of love and hope that gives full rein to the author's remarkable gifts. The winner of the Whitbread Prize, The Child in Time is an astonishing novel by one of the finest writers of his generation.Amazon.com Review
The Child in Time opens with a harrowing event. Stephen Lewis,a successful author of children's books, takes his 3-year-old daughter on aroutine Saturday morning trip to the supermarket. While waiting in line, hisattention is distracted and his daughter is kidnapped. Just like that. Fromthere, Lewis spirals into bereavement that has effects on his relationshipwith his wife, his psyche and time itself: "It was a wonder there couldbe so much movement, so much purpose, all the time. He himself hadnone." This beautifully haunting book won a 1987 Whitbread Prize. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (29)

4-0 out of 5 stars Formed in infancy
Stephen Lawes appears to be pretty well-heeled. His successes seem remarkable. He is a successful writer of children's books. He is acquainted with Charles Darke, who is apparently being groomed for a ministerial position in government. Via this connection, Stephen also sits on a Whitehall committee to examine policy options on childhood, children, education and related issues. He himself also seems to have the prime minister's ear. He has a wife, Julie, who loves him and beautiful little three-year-old daughter, Kate, whom he worships.

But then one day Kate is no longer there. On a trip to the shops with her father, there are events that take her out of her parents' lives. In her absence, Stephen continues to worship her, to see her walking along the street, in a school playground, perhaps everywhere he tries to look. Meanwhile life goes on, but for Stephen aspects of it begin to disintegrate. The child has stopped his time.

There follows, in Ian McEwan's novel, The Child In Time, an examination of childhood. In various guises, this biologically-fixed but socially-defined state is seen to influence and control the lives of the book's characters. The fact that children are sexually and physically immature human beings whose characteristics are still developing seems pretty immutable. But what is it that demands they should eat special foods from special menus? Is it essential that the experience of childhood should be always multi-coloured, perhaps as a preparation for the unending greyness of adulthood? And why, in the twenty-first century is it deemed that children should not work, when in the nineteenth it was considered desirable, perhaps even essential for everyone's greater well-being?

If we are stressed in our daily lives, how much of our ability to cope, or not cope, stems from our ability to re-invent a child's curiosity and enthusiasm, not to mention naiveté? And is this state also perhaps a place of protecting retreat? And how exactly did we manage to create this space?

The Child In Time examines several strands of thought relating to infancy, childhood and dependency via the assumptions and reactions of adults. It is a novel with multiple parallel strands, more of a meditation on a theme than a focused, linear progression. It always plays with its ideas.

But not all of them work. Charles Darke's adoption of a second childhood, whether conscious or not, as a means of protecting himself from himself, is compellingly credible. But the presence of licensed beggars in a society not located in any particular time or any declared political ideology simply doesn't wash. This science-fiction element of the book asks a sound but imagined question about our attitudes toward childhood, but jars with and detracts from the rest of the book's recognisable landscape.

As ever, Ian McEwan mixes concepts of philosophy and sociology with the minutiae of daily life. Stephen Lawes does not seem to be wholly credible, however. His mix of interests and capabilities seems to be a tad too eclectic, too widely and thinly spread for him to come across as convincing in any discipline. At times, he seems even peripheral, dashing from one event to the next merely to witness what the author wanted to illustrate.

But these are small criticisms of a magnificent book. Eventually the novel provides an uplifting experience. It takes the reader to places where the characters find themselves, places where they also want to be. Then, having reached their goal, much of what went before falls into new perspectives, and the whole process might just be ready to start again, but this time in socially-changed garb. It's a bit like life, really...

4-0 out of 5 stars Earliest McEwan Masterwork
The Child in Time starts, in typical McEwan fashion, with something bad happening to someone.In this case, a child is snatched from her father at a grocery, which McEwan brilliantly depicts. He then digs deep into the effects of that, but it doesn't go to the places one would expect.There is the split family and the conflict from different approaches to grief, but he goes so much further.The novel is about, as the title implies, childhood, memory, and time.The father, Stephen Lewis, learns important things about all these topics as he is forced to confront the fact that his daughter and, most likely, his wife, are gone forever.We remember what we want to remember and forget the rest.Children live in the present.But the most important component it time.Time is relative.In a moving and beautifully written scene, we see Stephen inhabit the memories of his own mother before he was born.And perhaps most importantly, time also has the power to heal, as we learn in a stunning conclusion.

A Child in Time is the earliest of McEwan's masterworks and draws a line between his early, psyhco-sexual works (In Between the Sheets, The Comfort of Strangers) and his later mature work.(Amsterdam, Atonement) The McEwan trademarks that we've all come to love are all here for the first time together in one work.I became a fan late (when Amsterdam came out) so I'm just now getting around to his earlier books.I had been disappointed to date, but this is the earliest of his works that I felt was as engaging, moving, and as complete as his most recent.

4-0 out of 5 stars quequeeg
McEwan does it again. "A Child in Time" is a provocative, suspensful tale about the aftermath of a loving couple's four year old daughter being abducted from under the father's nose. McEwan explores the various stages of post-tragedy existance for father and mother, whose reaction and self-healing process take various paths and by-ways before ultimate resolution. A thoughtful read with which parents and non-parents will empathize.

2-0 out of 5 stars Not up to scratch
I've read lots of Mr. McEwan's work, and every other novel is brilliant.Unfortunately, this is the Other novel.Atonement and Enduring Love were wonderful, Saturday a disappointment, and Amsterdam a disaster. This is the worst yet.The plot centers around the kidnapping of the main character's young daughter and his reaction to the tragedy.There is no significant character development, a gratuitous Prime Minister, a suicide sweetly explained away by the deceased's wife, and pages of rambling, seemingly pointless prose.There is a certain redemption in the last few pages, but that does not offset the pain of the middle part.Try one of his other works instead.

3-0 out of 5 stars A good early work
The two key themes of A Child in Time are contained in the title, which is a kind of a pun on the baby that arrives in time to save the marriage. There is the stolen child lost in time, Kate; Steven tries to keep her in time, to give her imaginary growth, but fails. Julie has to learn to allow her to be lost to a past time yet still loved in present time. There is the child out of time - Steven's revisiting his own former self in some supernatural experience. There is the fictional child of his novels, children forever children in the constructed world that fiction allows. And there is the adult who wants to return to the naivety and lack of responsibility of childhood, and actually attempts a real regression to that level. His attempt is catastrophic. The character Charles raises the issue of time quite early in the novel, when he comments that to children, there is no time; their world is somehow played out with little awareness of the passing of time or of a real future. The comment: "In every child there is a hidden adult and in every adult there is a hidden child", plays with changes in time's forward arrow. Charles's desire to return to the innocence and insouciance of childhood, we are told by Thelma, is a widespread problem amongst adults; it is accentuated as pathology in Charles.
The novel, as most of McEwan's novels, travels to and fro in time with back flashes interspersing the narrative of the present, and a future never out of sight. Although the novel returns in time, and although Steven's memory does also, McEwan constantly reminds us that our present is the result of past decisions, past important moments of choice that cannot be retrieved or extirpated. Time travels on, and the missing Kate has to find her own place in that arrow of time in a way that will allow the parents to move on without her, yet with loving memories of her.
Within this thematic, there are some lovely moments: I think it the only work of McEwan that has brought me to actual tears. But the tears are momentary. It has none of the poignancy of On Chesil Beach, or the enduring sense of loss or tragedy - but then, it is not a tragedy, so that is hardly surprising. The style is recognisably and wonderfully McEwan even while it lacks the more refined and subtle skills he has at his disposal today (the original copyright is 1987). Part of his lack of skill is in his methodology - his actual story telling. He is not able, as he is now, to get as expertly inside his characters and quarry their psychological depths.
For me, his greatest failure centred on the actual stealing of Kate. I find it barely credible. I also find the failure to follow the psyches or the conversations of the couple at this time to be frustrating. He can't quite deal with the magnitude of his own plot at this point, and steps too far back from both action and characters for me. There are unexplained gaps in plot, jumps in logic, presumptions and omissions that stretch the reader's belief.
I would not recommend it to anyone as their first McEwan, and I would certainly not recommend it to anyone as a marvel in its own right. Neither would I criticise it as a failed attempt. I would love to see what the more mature McEwan could do today with the same theme, but even the less experienced version indicates enormous promise, and is a pleasure to read. The disappointment occurs because we now know he can do better.
... Read more

9. The Cement Garden
by Ian McEwan
Paperback: 160 Pages (1994-01-13)
list price: US$13.95 -- used & new: US$5.94
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0679750185
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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In this tour de force of psychological unease--now a major motion picture starring Charlotte Gainsbourg and Sinead Cusack--McEwan excavates the ruins of childhood and uncovers things that most adults have spent a lifetime forgetting--or denying. "Possesses the suspense and chilling impact of Lord of the Flies."--Washington Post Book World. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (71)

4-0 out of 5 stars A remarkably dark and compelling book, but it leaves too much unexplored. Recommended,
When their parents die, Jack and his siblings decide to continue on as if nothing has happened. Left to their own devices, the children quickly deviate from the normal social order, adopting odd behaviors and unusual relationships as they attempt to cope with their new lives. The Cement Garden is something of an inversion. Most books of its sort--where children are orphaned and left to create their own society in isolation, and incest is so likely to crop up--are guilty pleasures, and The Cement Garden is that, but it puts emphasis on the guilt. McEwan's characters are unlikable and flawed, his prose sparse and his plot and themes both discomforting, and he creates a remarkably tense and uneasy atmosphere. As a result, his book is gritter and darker than one would expect--but, because of its short length and taboo subject matter, it never loses its addictive qualities. It's almost entirely joyless to read, yet thoughtful and completely compelling. That's an impressive combination, a welcome deviation from expectations, and a work of significant skill.

Yet while I'm impressed with the book's style, I'm conflicted about its content. The Cement Garden is unexpectedly complex and discomforting; dissecting it is likewise. The coping methods and society adopted by the isolated children are provocative, filling the book with everything from emotional regression to crossdressing to incest. Such provocative content begs analysis--why the children behave that way, whether it's healthy or unhealthy, whether it should or shouldn't continue--but, in part because of the narrative voice and the sparsity and brevity that create the book's strong style, the burden of interpretation lies almost entirely on the reader. And while that burden is not unwelcome, it is too heavy: the plot has a strong resolution, but the themes are laid to bare and left too unexplored. In some ways, The Cement Garden punishes itself by exceeding expectations. In doing so it raises the bar, but it can't quite reach the bar's new height. The book is good, surprisingly so, but it begs more, more exploration and resolution, perhaps more length, and by not offering this it is not quite as good as it could be. Still I recommend it--because it is miserable and compelling and intelligent, despite its faults.

4-0 out of 5 stars Caring is Creepy
Ian McEwan is known for his seemingly effortless ability to make the grotesque seem normal, or really to force the question `what is normal?' unto the reader. A mark of an excellent writer is that he/she can write about something that is disgusting to mainstream society without it becoming provocative or exploitative in a sense. Nothing was written in this book for a cheap thrill, even creepy aspect of action & characterization was necessary to understand & build the plot & theme of children left without their parents. It turns into a morbid story that changes into a tale about subversion of age & childhood/gender roles. They lose all footing once they lose their family structure.

The father has a heart attack one day in the garden & soon after, the mother succumbs to an unexplained illness after months of languishing at home in a stupor. What the two oldest children decide to do is keep their mother's death a secret from the outside world. The eldest children Julie & Jack decide to put their mother's body in a truck & cover it with cement in their cellar. They do this without much debate, as they do not want their family broken up & the younger children being put into orphanages.

What they believe is that they can manage the family, but it soon turns into chaos even if they do not recognize what is happening. The first sign of instability is how Jack has become sexually attracted to his sister Julie, though there were signs before the parents' deaths that an unhealthy attraction existed. Jack also does care for grooming anymore, nor schooling. Julie has become fixated on an older man & is acting like the mother of the youngest, Tom, who has reverted to a toddler state & has decided to become a girl. Even the second oldest daughter in the family, Sue, supports his transition, asking why is it wrong for the child to dress this way.

I found that part particularly intriguing, as it gives a good commentary on what may be the reason why women can adopt masculine clothing & men cannot adopt feminine clothing without feeling degraded. McEwan puts in a feminist inspired commentary about it possibly being related to women being degraded by men, being seen as lesser beings. At the least, the reader will question why this is & ponder over it, despite being disturbed for the child in question. Tom's main interest at first is dressing up as a girl to avoid bullying, but it later changes into a gender role reversal as he & his playmate dress up & pretend to be Tom's parents or Julie & Jack as they are being seen as a couple even in the eyes of a young child.

What really intrigued me about the book was how it showed the unhealthy aspects of their grieving. It was as if they did not focus upon it at all or rather too much at times. Sue would seal herself up in her room, reading & writing in her diary to her dead mother. Jack would linger in a depression, withdrawing into himself. Tom regressed to a toddler state. Julie tried to play matriarch, but was caught between having a healthy relationship with a boyfriend & turning to her brother Jack for comfort.

3-0 out of 5 stars interesting reading
Held my interest but was a little disturbing content-still well-written and enjoyable. Gave me things to think about afterwards.

3-0 out of 5 stars My least favorite Ian McEwan novel of the eight I've read...
I don't usually bother leaving three-star reviews--I mostly am moved to write a review only when I discover a terrific book, a book I want to share with any readers who might
happen across my review.In McEwan's case, though, I will make an exception.McEwan is so talented and so famous that I expect excellence from him every time he comes to bat,
whether or not the book happens to ring my bell.

This time out, I bought "Black Dogs" and "The Cement Garden" at the same time, and happened to read "Black Dogs" first.It's fine, but I was not moved to write a review.Then I immediately
started "The Cement Garden."It is written in the first person, and is absolutely convincing.It doesn't add up to much, though, and if I'm going to read a book about incest, I damn well
want it to be beautifully done.("The Kiss," by Kathryn Harrison, is, I believe, an almost perfect book which happens to be about incest--a memoir, not a novel, by the way)."The
Cement Garden" is hugely inferior to Harrison's book.

In all, to anyone who is considering buying this book, my advice is, Don't do it.But "The Kiss" if it's incest you're after, and if you want a McEwan novel, read "Atonement," which is

5-0 out of 5 stars Crack-up
Masterfully written by McEwan, this dark and unsettling novella describes the isolated world created by parent-less children, its gradual crack-up and eventual collapse. The cracks in the cellar cement tomb mirror the ones in the oxygenated entombed space above it.The characterization of the four children, although very well done, are in the background while the atmosphere and the sense of place which the kids inhabit reign supreme.The inexorable (and predictable) decline and fall of their world is irresistabley told, culminating in the sublimely written last few pages. ... Read more

10. Amsterdam: A Novel
by Ian McEwan
Paperback: 208 Pages (1999-11-02)
list price: US$13.95 -- used & new: US$4.85
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0385494246
Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

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On a chilly February day, two old friends meet in the throng outside a crematorium to pay their last respects to Molly Lane.Both Clive Linley and Vernon Halliday had been Molly's lovers in the days before they reached their current eminence.Clive is Britain's most successful modern composer; Vernon is editor of the quality broadsheet The Judge.Gorgeous, feisty Molly had had other lovers, too, notably Julian Garmony, foreign secretary, a notorious right-winger tipped to be the next prime minister.

In the days that follow Molly's funeral, Clive and Vernon will make a pact with consequences neither has foreseen.Each will make a disastrous moral decision, their friendship will be tested to its limits, and Julian Garmony will be fighting for his political life.

In Amsterdam, a contemporary morality tale that is as profound as it is witty, we have Ian McEwan at his wisest and most wickedly disarming.And why Amsterdam?What happens there to Clive and Vernon is the most delicious climax of a novel brimming with surprises.

Winner of the 1998 Booker PrizeAmazon.com Review
When good-time, fortysomething Molly Lane dies of an unspecifieddegenerative illness, her many friends and numerous lovers are led to thinkabout their own mortality. Vernon Halliday, editor of the upmarketnewspaper the Judge, persuades his old friend Clive Linley, aself-indulgent composer of some reputation, to enter into a euthanasia pactwith him. Should either of them be stricken with such an illness, the other willbring about his death. From this point onward we are in little doubt as toAmsterdam's outcome--it's only a matter of who will kill whom. Inthe meantime, compromising photographs of Molly's most distinguished lover,foreign secretary Julian Garmony, have found their way into the hands ofthe 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 ratherunsavory Garmony comes out on top. Ian McEwan is master of the writer'scraft, and while this is the sort of novel that wins prizes, his charactersremain curiously soulless amidst the twists and turns of plot. --LisaJardine ... Read more

Customer Reviews (319)

3-0 out of 5 stars seems like the Reader's Digest version of a great book
'Amsterdam' has to be one of worst books to win the Booker prize.Ian McEwan has written much, much better.What I found frustrating is that despite its shortfalls the overall plot is excellent.And the author raises some very interesting social issues in a very interesting framework.However I thought the "two former lovers of a decent woman bond in a manly way" aspect was a bit of a rip-off of 'The End Of The Affair' (Graham Greene) and, most unfortunately, the author doesn't dig enough into the characters and covers certain aspects of the plot in a cursory fashion.The entire book felt half-hearted, as if McEwan simply rushed through it to achieve a deadline.

Bottom line: it has all the basics for being a great book but McEwan blew it.Not recommended.

3-0 out of 5 stars Pretty good until the end..
I'm a huge Ian McEwan fan: I've read most of his books, and he doesn't have any that I've flat-out disliked. My dad warned me that Amsterdam was by far his least favorite McEwan book, so I went in skeptical. However, I was very shortly hooked by the novel, as I usually was for McEwan. The book has shallow, self-indulgent characters, but that doesn't mean they are not interesting. The plot is also intriguing, with moral decisions constantly on the line.
And then, I got to the end. I understood what my dad was talking about. McEwan is better than the ending. It was just too easy to end it the way he did.
As others have said, it was most likely a consolation booker. It's a shame they didn't give it to Enduring Love or Black Dogs, or wait for Atonement.
Ian McEwan is still a great writer, and this book is worth reading, but absolutely don't make it your starting point if you have not read himbefore.

3-0 out of 5 stars Defeated by its own conclusion
A composer and a newspaper editor become locked in conflict when a former lover dies even as they both face failure in their professional lives.Ian McEwan writes beautifully about these morally compromised men who find themselves failing miserably at every tribulation that life sends their way, thereby intensifying their disappointment and disapproval of each other.However, he derails his own story in the end; after displaying such astute psychological understanding of his characters, he forces them to participate in a very unconvincing resolution.It's as if he had the conclusion in mind right from the beginning and refused to listen to his characters when they told him they didn't want to go there.

2-0 out of 5 stars Falls flat on its face!
An English novel to the core. "Amsterdam" is a book of Shakespearean proportions. The author's urbane narrative force walks the reader through what is structurally a primitive tableau. After a quick "mise en place", the actors are set in motion and this modern tragicomedy unfolds. The story is resolved to true English modal-- a rendering of accounts. "What consummate artistry!"

The issue here takes the form of a question: Can the basic structure of the ancient and primitive Shakespearean tragedy provide a relevant narrative format for today's literature? It is a matter of taste. My quick answer is NO. In my view, the Shakespearean format is always superseded by the narrative markers. In a novel, the tragedy will drive the actors off a cliff but the narrative will restore the resolution which is antithetical to the Shakespearean tragedy. Perhaps an English innovation as a modern work-around to a primitive condition where a black horse prevails. So... two-stars.

1-0 out of 5 stars Ugly
An extremely unpleasant novel written with a mean spirited narrator and characters treated like a 4 year old's Christmas toy (i.e. torn up, thrown around, broken within an hour of receiving it).Don't understand the misanthropy at all. ... Read more

11. Atonement: A Novel
by Ian McEwan
Paperback: 368 Pages (2003-02-25)
list price: US$14.95 -- used & new: US$1.59
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 038572179X
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Ian McEwan s symphonic novel of love and war, childhood and class, guilt and forgiveness provides all the satisfaction of a brilliant narrative and the provocation we have come to expect from this master of English prose.

On a hot summer day in 1935, thirteen-year-old Briony Tallis witnesses a moment s flirtation between her older sister, Cecilia, and Robbie Turner, the son of a servant and Cecilia s childhood friend. But Briony s incomplete grasp of adult motives together with her precocious literary gifts brings about a crime that will change all their lives. As it follows that crime s repercussions through the chaos and carnage of World War II and into the close of the twentieth century, Atonement engages the reader on every conceivable level, with an ease and authority that mark it as a genuine masterpiece.Amazon.com Review
Ian McEwan's Booker Prize-nominated Atonement is his first novel since Amsterdam took home the prize in 1998. But while Amsterdam was a slim, sleek piece, Atonement is a more sturdy, more ambitious work, allowing McEwan more room to play, think, and experiment.

We meet 13-year-old Briony Tallis in the summer of 1935, as she attempts to stage a production of her new drama "The Trials of Arabella" to welcome home her older, idolized brother Leon. But she soon discovers that her cousins, the glamorous Lola and the twin boys Jackson and Pierrot, aren't up to the task, and directorial ambitions are abandoned as more interesting prospects of preoccupation come onto the scene. The charlady's son, Robbie Turner, appears to be forcing Briony's sister Cecilia to strip in the fountain and sends her obscene letters; Leon has brought home a dim chocolate magnate keen for a war to promote his new "Army Ammo" chocolate bar; and upstairs, Briony's migraine-stricken mother Emily keeps tabs on the house from her bed. Soon, secrets emerge that change the lives of everyone present....

The interwar, upper-middle-class setting of the book's long, masterfully sustained opening section might recall Virginia Woolf or Henry Green, but as we move forward--eventually to the turn of the 21st century--the novel's central concerns emerge, and McEwan's voice becomes clear, even personal. For at heart, Atonement is about the pleasures, pains, and dangers of writing, and perhaps even more, about the challenge of controlling what readers make of your writing. McEwan shouldn't have any doubts about readers of Atonement: this is a thoughtful, provocative, and at times moving book that will have readers applauding. --Alan Stewart, Amazon.co.uk ... Read more

Customer Reviews (823)

3-0 out of 5 stars Too much setup, evocative war scenes, dubious dénouement
Perhaps more a book to be discussed than enjoyed.


Atonement is broken up into four very distinct parts. I found the first part the least engaging, which (unfortunately for me) was over half of the entire book. This could perhaps be put down to masculine preference: part one focuses on the minutia of a precocious `tween' girl's thoughts, whereas parts two and three centre on incidents in WW2 - the evacuation from Dunkirk, and the experience of nurses receiving the wounded back in England. The very short final part plays with the story/author within the story.

There's no doubting that McEwan can write. He appears to have a real concern for period detail. I say `appears' because I'm not an expert on 1930s/early WW2 Britain. That being said, it's a time that interests me, and I've spent a fair bit of time in primary source material by authors like George Orwell, John Wain, and C.S. Lewis - or even the slightly earlier P.G. Wodehouse). One of the pleasures of this book is the evocation of the manners, attitudes and settings of an English country house, the Tommies awaiting rescue, and the cold Victorian officious stoicism of a hospital (all strikingly juxtaposed with the 21st Century post-script/Part 4). He vividly takes you into these places, adding highly effective details (such as the petty nonsense of having to line up each of the wheels on each hospital bed). His characters are clearly individual and largely avoid stereotype. The plot issues are powerful.

Still I'm playing the `personal web review' card and less concerned with whether this book was well written than if it works for someone like me. When McEwan's lavishing this time and detail onto the wartime settings I was really drawn in. However when he's doing the same, as he is for most of the book, for the country house through the eyes of a consciously myopic young girl, I found it laboured and eventually tiresome. Perhaps he felt he needed to go into such extensive psychological detail to justify Briony's awful crime. Not, that is, to make it any less awful, but to make her action plausible without painting her as an absolute villain. Even if he achieved this, it was at the crucial expense of pace. Not that you need to have three gruesome deaths on every page to write a gripping story, but that donating more space to, say, a tantrum exploring each thought a girl has as she hacks at nettles with a stick, than you do to, say, those of a central character getting out of jail after being unjustly sentenced, is - to this reader - troublesome. Again, I can see reasons why he spelt some things out as carefully as he did, but I can't say this was entertaining. Perhaps it gave some more nuance to Briony and her relationships, more intellectual grounding to her actions. Maybe it was to show critics he could write from a textured female perspective (I just noticed that I described his novel `Amsterdam' as `masculine'). Whatever - I found the sheer volume of words to set up Briony's crime actually denuded its impact.

Hence it's so refreshing when we suddenly leap under fire into France. This episode is powerfully and richly conveyed (with McEwan later cheekily hinting at the sort research he may have undertaken by inserting his faux author into the last passage) - I'm disappointed that I missed that part of the movie (it was odd coming at a book that I dimly `remembered' parts of before I read it, having flicked over to it now and then while watching something else on another channel), which seemed very faithful in the parts I caught (the incident at the fountain, Briony giving her name to the dying French soldier). Similarly the evocation of a nurse's training and context in London at this time was visceral and absorbing. As an aside, I happened to be looking into some of the events surrounding Dunkirk as part of an essay a class of mine was doing on Winston Churchill, and `Atonement' really hammers the massive resentment the army felt towards the RAF (with them suggesting the `A' stood for `Absent'). My tiny bit of googling made me aware that there are two sides to this debate (some arguing that the RAF were engaged, indeed, stretched, to protect the evacuees but not within sight of the beaches, others that Churchill consciously exposed the troops because he didn't think he could afford to risk losing too many planes in anticipation of a German invasion). I'm sure McEwan has a much more informed opinion of this, but Atonement is entirely justified in conveying the anger of the infantry, whether or not it was entirely justified.

I can't let this review pass without rolling my eyes and shaking my head at yet another ridiculously juvenile sex scene (cf.Price's The Labyrinth Makers) in an otherwise adult novel. Why would an author be so concerned for plausibility in some areas so blithely produce the Mills and Boon/"I never thought this would happen to me.." cross of Robbie and Cecilia's ludicrous library encounter? "His experience was limited and he only knew at second hand that they need not lie down. As for her, beyond all the films she had seen, and the novels and lyrical poems she had read, she had no experience at all." Yet there is not a hint of self-consciousness, innocence, or inexperience as waves crash against the shore in perfect ecstasy. This was so gratuitous, so absurd, and so out of step with the characters and the time. This was the first instant either of them had acknowledged to each other that they even had any feelings for each other. They'd barely even realised it themselves. This was enough. Plotwise, Briony could still misinterpret a passionate embrace. Even just a kiss to demonstrate the radical new turn in their relationship could have been painted powerfully and convincingly. But this daydream nonsense? Puh-leaase.

I'm not so sure about the `story within the story' final part (much as in the last book I read, The Messenger, which has something similar.Indeed, I'm getting a bit over this as Foer's Everything Is Illuminated was also a recent read). Yes, there's some interest in throwing around questions about how an author may mix biography and fiction, but unless McEwan himself is widely known to have been involved in similar events, the Briony as author/unreliable narrator thing is purely to be judged on whether it works as fiction. It's a device, and importantly a surprise ending device. It does work in some ways to have us re-evaluate the previous events, but does this re-evaluation add to the pleasure and the impact of the novel? I don't really think so. It actually made it harder for me to care for the characters as the book challenges your suspension of disbelief (`Briony' has altered events, challenging the credibility of the previous three parts) - but then wants you to double it (`Briony is still a character we're supposed to believe in as an author closely linked to the events of the previous parts). The only book I can currently think of which successfully incorporated an `author' into the narration, even blurring the lines between the `real' author, was Primo Levi in The Wrench. To quote myself:
'Rather than remain invisible and let `Faussone' do all the talking, the listener/narrator is also allowed to take on a role - the stories are clearly placed in a setting of Faussone talking to the semi-autobiographical persona of Levi. We learn a little of why he's putting down these stories, his own speculation on whether writing is a worthy `craft' compared to that of the tradesman, and he even drops in a work story of his own (as a chemist - Levi himself was a chemist) to conclude. Levi highlights the importance of the listener and the context to the stories, which, while entertaining enough to stand on their own, are enhanced by tangents of setting and response. Moreover there's room for just a little plot and relationship development winding alongside the stories.'

In the Wrench this element is integrated. In Atonement it feels a bit like a trick: didn't McEwen think the story strong enough to stand on its own? He did well in giving a picture of the characters 50 years on, but I would have been happier if he had have dropped the Briony as author of what we've just read trope. It's OK, we know we're reading historical fiction. Maybe the idea was that we'd feel more for Briony - this was her `atonement' - to give Robbie and Cecelia the happy ending she'd stolen from them in `real life'. If that was the idea, I don't know that he quite pulled it off. If he wants to chat about the death of the author and such, I'd rather have it in an essay.

5-0 out of 5 stars Enchanting
Briony is determined that her cousins will be a part of her play, that they will like performing, and that she will decide who plays which part.The cousins, unfortunately, are arriving not for a holiday but to be away while their parents fight out a divorce and are in no mood to perform plays.It is 1935 and England is close to entering the war.

At thirteen, Briony is sure her writing skills are top notch, that she is surely unique in all the deep thoughts she has about life.And then one day when she leaves her play rehearsal for a walk in the garden she sees a strange encounter between her sister, Cecilia, and the cleaning lady's son, Robbie.It will shape all their lives forevermore.

That very evening when the twin cousins "run away," an event occurs in the dark around the house grounds that appears to be a sexual offense.Briony convinces herself that she has seen the incident.And it changes everyone's life forevermore.She becomes so entrenched in retelling the event with surety that even when she doubts what she saw she feels trapped and unable to retract her charge.

The reader follows Briony all through her life, even as she becomes a well regarded author, she can never fully enjoy her success because of what she did so long ago.

Ian McEwan writes with so many levels of story and so much depth of character that it was enchanting to read.

5-0 out of 5 stars Much better than the film!
That the book was better than the film should come as no surprise; the book usually is better anyway. I had never read any of McEwan's novels. I saw "Atonement" (the film) first, and loved it. It wasn't until later that I realized it had been adapted for film.

The movie is still a favorite, but now the book has a treasured place on my shelf as well. With this novel about the complexities of emotion, family, and the nuances of human relationships, McEwan definitely delivers a story worth re-reading.

3-0 out of 5 stars reminiscent
Interesting, sometimes even a gripping story.I do think however, that the author has little understanding of the evolution and development of a young girl's conscience.
The setting and even the names of some of the leading protagonists were very reminiscent of Mary Stewart's novel "Touch Not the Cat".

3-0 out of 5 stars Pretty good. Worth the read; good movie adaptation.
An occasionally tediously introspective blend of *Cold Mountain*-meets-*Crime and Punishment*. A few reasonably-hard-to-see twists; sympathetic characters, good writing. Worth reading once. ... Read more

12. First Love, Last Rites: Stories
by Ian McEwan
Paperback: 165 Pages (1994-01-13)
list price: US$12.95 -- used & new: US$6.75
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0679750193
Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
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Ian McEwan's Somerset Maugham Award-winning collection First Love, Last Rites brought him instant recognition as one of the most influential voices writing in England today. Taut, brooding, and densely atmospheric, these stories show us the ways in which murder can arise out of boredom, perversity can result from adolescent curiosity, and sheer evil might be the solution to unbearable loneliness. These tales are as horrifying as anything written by Clive Barker or Stephen King, but they are crafted with a lyricism and intensity that compel us to confront our secret kinship with the horrifying. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (13)

4-0 out of 5 stars "Silly girl, no butterflies."
I was impressed with this collection: I wasn't expecting something this good from an author's first writings, even an author as good as Ian McEwan. However, he had already proven himself to be a master of psychological unease: Almost all of the stories in this collection creeped me out in one way or another, particularly "Butterflies."
These small gems explore abuse in various forms. For example, "Conversations With a Cupboard Man," one of my favorites in the collection, is narrated by a young man, who had lived with his mother until very recently. You start to find out his mother had treated him like a small child for his whole life, and the story is about his problems adjusting in the real world. Homemade, Butterflies, and Disguises all depict sexual abuse of children, in different ways.
This collection is not for the faint of heart: if you read and loved Atonement, this might not be what you're expecting. I'm not offended by these stories, but if you are offended by rape and abuse in its various forms, I would steer clear. But if you ask me, these horror stories are as scary as those of Stephen King, just in a more subtle way. If you're a fan of McEwan or psychological horror, these are definitely worth a look.

3-0 out of 5 stars Ugly Little Secrets
This is a horrid book.

The stories in this collection deal with the vilest human emotions and perverse tendencies. They are so disgusting that you keep wanting to stop reading - but you can't.

An early work by Ian McEwan, what captivates the reader is his attention to detail and his attempt to get into the psyche of suspected child molesters/murderers, nymphomaniacs, incestuous teenagers, maldjusted mommy's boys and the whole cast of miscreants - perhaps unfair labels that McEwan seek to tear off and show the person behind the deeds.

Maintaining an objective, non-judgmental tone throughout, McEwan manages to shock and outrage his reader, making you feel as powerless as the victims in his stories.

I'm glad I read it, but it's not a book I want to revisit.

3-0 out of 5 stars Uneven early work
The stories in "First Love, Last Rites" are very uneven. The best of the lot - "Homemade" and "Disguises" - are dazzling in their detail and careful construction of character. Both are...perverted? twisted?...tales of misplaced sexuality. In "Homemade," a boy rapes his prepubescent sister in order to experience sex for the first time; in "Disguises," a boy is dressed in eccentric and sexually ambiguous costumes by his aunt, a former star of the stage. McEwan builds marvelous tension; each of these stories feels dangerous and vital.

The other stories vary from decent ("First Love, Last Rites") to downright terrible ("Cocker at the Theater"). In fact, "Cocker..." was so bad I laughed out loud when I finished it. The piece contains the usual public naked hijinks penned by literary-minded frat boys and submitted to undergraduate poetry mags and is just as poorly written. The rest of the stories are technically proficient but lack any sort of moral, human, or artistic depth. They are concept pieces combing self-loathing and sex. Perhaps utterly necessary to write, but equally difficult to read.

Still, I might recommend the collection - especially a used or borrowed copy - for the stories bookending the drivel in the middle.

3-0 out of 5 stars macabre depravity a la grotesque.
I would begin my review by saying that if you are going to begin a journey into the wonderful world of McEwan, don't begin here. Then I would say that he is one of my favorite writers, EVER. He is incredibly good, but I am afraid that none of these eight stories really resonated with me. I would say that they don't represent how well he can write. If you began here, you might assume that McEwan is somewhat fixated with sexual rites of passage themes, when really he isn't.
From a pickled penis, in the first story; to childhood incestuous rape, in the second; to a third story (perhaps the best of all) with the least amount of sexual innuendo; to the fourth, depicting uncontrollable on-stage public sexual intercourse; to the fifth, sexually motivated murder; to the sixth, about a masturbatory recluse; to the seventh, the "art" of which, eluded me almost entirely; to the eighth, involving what I consider child abuse brought on by a self-obsessed, cross-dressing caregiver.
Are the stories written well? Hell yes.
McEwan is exquisite (present tense) and this book (1975) proves that "exquisiteness" is not just a recent development with him. It is the subject matter that I find objectionable. And not so much in an "immoral" sense as much as in an "unappealing" sense. In these stories he is dealing with such grotesque imagery, that I find it difficult to find these particular stories applicable. For the most part, they are about the kind of stuff that even the newspapers omit from their most disturbing back pages.
Maybe I don't want to look that close. Perhaps I don't want to read about how some guy "tosses himself off" in the closet of some attic somewhere, or how in a shadowy tunnel along a river, a young girl is sexually victimized and then slid into the river, like a fish that no one wanted, because it was too small for a good meal.
They are fairly brutal stories, I'm not kidding.
But McEwan is SUCH a great writer. If I have caught you in time, read him elsewhere, and then come back here when you are in love with him. And trust him.

2-0 out of 5 stars McEwan's Descent Into Porn
Like other reviewers, I marvel at the genius (a term I rarely use) of Mr. McEwan, in works such as "Atonement," "Amsterdam," and "Saturday." I believe that he is the finest writer of fiction living today.However "First Love, Last Rites," written albeit very early in his career, while offering us snippets of dark humor and polished prose, are for the most part one-dimensional tales of sexual rites of passage.And bizarre rites they are! One is exposed to incest, child abuse and other peculiar tales from a writer who was obviously groping his way onto the literary landscape.Concentrate on his later works and forget this compilation.He is so much better than these stories. ... Read more

13. The Daydreamer
by Ian McEwan
Paperback: 160 Pages (2000-01-18)
list price: US$11.95 -- used & new: US$6.43
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0385498055
Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars
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From the inexhaustible imagination of Ian McEwan--a master of contemporary fiction and author of the Booker Prize-winning national bestseller Amsterdam--an enchanting work of fiction that appeals equally to children and adults.

First published in England as a children's book, The Daydreamer marks a delightful foray by one of our greatest novelists into a new fictional domain. In these seven exquisitely interlinked episodes, the grown-up protagonist Peter Fortune reveals the secret journeys, metamorphoses, and adventures of his childhood. Living somewhere between dream and reality, Peter experiences fantastical transformations: he swaps bodies with the wise old family cat; exchanges existences with a cranky infant; encounters a very bad doll who has come to life and is out for revenge; and rummages through a kitchen drawer filled with useless objects to discover some not-so-useless cream that actually makes people vanish. Finally, he wakes up as an eleven-year-old inside a grown-up body and embarks on the truly fantastic adventure of falling in love. Moving, dreamlike, and extraordinary, The Daydreamer marks yet another imaginative departure for Ian McEwan, and one that adds new breadth to his body of work. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (52)

1-0 out of 5 stars a brilliant book
I only recently discovered this gem of a book, and if you can find it with the Anthony Browne ilustrations, all the better. But it is a wonderful collection of short stories about an English boy named Peter and each chapter is a different one of his daydreams.One of my favorites is when he changes places with the family cat--the ending is bittersweet but so true to childhood and all adults will like the final story where Peter comes to terms with the possibilities and losses of "growing up".It's a grand book for daydreamers of all ages.

5-0 out of 5 stars Everyone should read The Daydreamer
I recommend The Daydreamer highly.McEwan's usual beautiful use of words is apparent but he simplifies the writing enough that this book can be enjoyed by both children and adults.
Once started I could not put The Daydreamer down until the last story was done. After finishing it I immediately went back to read "The Cat" for a second time.Both times, this story brought me to tears.It is a perfect short story - and stands out or could stand alone.

5-0 out of 5 stars I Read It Every Year
Every year, in March, I read "The Daydreamer".It is that good.That is all.

5-0 out of 5 stars If you are from Hong Kong, don't read this book. It's boring...
Haven't read the book, though I've read all McEwan's other novels and short stories. I was curious to see what McEwan fans thought of his book for children, but what I found instead is that half the reviews (all of the one and two star reviews) were done by residents of Hong Kong or anonymous 'kids' on the same two days. For anyone not familiar with McEwan's work, if there is one thing his books are not, it's boring. They're intelligent and well-written and usually psychologically accurate. I would expect the same of The Daydreamer, even if it's not intended for an adult audience.

5-0 out of 5 stars one of my favorites
This book was one of my favorites when I was a kid. The writing and illustrations are most excellent. *air guitar*

Anyone rating this lower than a 4 has no soul :'( ... Read more

14. In Between the Sheets
by Ian McEwan
Paperback: 160 Pages (1994-11-01)
list price: US$14.00 -- used & new: US$5.86
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0679749837
Average Customer Review: 2.5 out of 5 stars
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Call them transcripts of dreams or deadly accurate maps of the tremor zones of the psyche, the seven stories in this collection engage and implicate us in the most fearful ways imaginable. A two-timing pornographer becomes an unwilling object in the fantasies of one of his victims. A jaded millionaire buys himself the perfect mistress and plunges into a hell of jealousy and despair. And in the course of a weekend with his teenage daughter, a guilt-ridden father discovers the depths of his own blundering innocence.

At once chilling and beguiling, and written in prose of lacerating beauty, In Between the Sheets is a tour de force by one of England's most acclaimed practitioners of literary unease. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (12)

3-0 out of 5 stars postmodern writing is not about contrived closure
If you're a McEwan fan then you must read this collection. If you're not, please read the novels first. These short stories do not offer comfortable closures, but they do examine some intriguing relationships in McEwan's usual keen observationalist style. These are fragments of people's lives. The plots hint at much but define little, therefore it has to be up to the reader to mull over the stories, just as one might mull over paintings. They invite us to consider human attributes that individuals might deny and suppress due to social mores, but that all of us may bear to greater or lesser degrees, simply because we are all human. I was absorbed by all of them except To And Fro which kept losing my attention.

3-0 out of 5 stars Not terrible, but pales in comparison to First Love, Last Rites.
A hit and miss early book from one of our greatest living writers, In Between the Sheets, at the very least, is interesting enough to keep you reading. "Pornography," the first story, isn't great, but it's pretty good, and the ending was creepy enough to leave me sick to my stomach.
The next story, Reflections of a Kept Ape, is short but interesting, at least to an extent. It's bizarre enough to make it worth reading.
Two Fragments: March 199-, is a story depicting a near future which is essentially primitive and boring, and that's how reading it is as well. This story, especially the second half, is easily forgettable.
I actually quite like the next story, Dead as They Come, despite the plot line, which sounds like it wouldn't go anywhere. I won't give it away, I'll just say it's aninteresting twist on a love story, which leads to jealousy and eventually "murder."
In Between the Sheets was another bizarre, but quite good, story. It involves a divorced man staying with his daughter and her friend, a dwarf. They seem to be involved in some sort of lesbian relationship, and it turns into a strange but good story.
To be blunt, I hated the next story, To and Fro. It's a good thing it's by far the shortest: McEwan makes it deliberately confusing and it doesn't go anywhere. I respect him for trying to be unique, but he does it with more success on "Dead as They Come" and "Reflections of a Kept Ape."
The last story, Psychopolis, may well be the best in the collection: it starts with a mans odd semi-sexual experience with a female friend, and seems to go into a meditation on Christianity and short term friendships. Along with the title story, it takes a completely realistictone, and is wonderful to read.
All things considered, First Love, Last Rites is a more powerful read, but this book is interesting enough to make it worth the read.

3-0 out of 5 stars Way less provocative than First Love, Last Rites...
Not as good as or as provocative as the other short story volume (First Love, Last Rites), but still worth reading...

1-0 out of 5 stars Brilliantly written-Badly put together-(*some spoilers*)
"In Between the Sheets" was brilliantly written, as would be expected coming from McEwan- his style of writing is the closest anyone can get to Jane Austen- he's like "the" Jane Austen of our time. But after reading "Atonement" which was an unbelievably phenominal "couldn't put it down" read, I was quite dissapointed with "In Between the Sheets" because for being the brilliant writer that he is, these short stories weren't worthy of McEwan. There is a bizarre twist in each of the short stories in this book, and at the end of each story your left 'dumbfounded,' and you cant help but go back and re-read the last page so that you can try to understand what point McEwan is trying to make, but the attempt is useless because I still have yet to make sense of some of these stories. The most confusing was To and Fro- I don't think I'll ever understand that one. However, one of the points I did figure out McEwan was trying to make is that love, lust, passion, and sexuality are all very confusing things (even if it does involve an ape, a dwarf, or a mannequin, and not a real person) that can make a person act not like themselves and even resort to doing something completley crazy. So in short, I wouldn't recommend this book but I would most definitley recommend "Atonement":)

2-0 out of 5 stars Dissapointing
Lo compré con mucha ilusión en la versión en español. Una desilusión. Si bien lo venden como provocador no me pareció para nada. Lo sexual parece hasta artificial. No conmueve, no atrapa. Es la primera vez que me encuentro con algo de este autor que no me gusta casi nada. ... Read more

15. The Fiction of Ian McEwan (Readers' Guides to Essential Criticism)
by Peter Childs
Paperback: 240 Pages (2005-11-12)
list price: US$30.00 -- used & new: US$17.50
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1403919089
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This book introduces students to a range of critical approaches to McEwan's fiction. Criticism is drawn from selections in academic essays and articles, and reviews in newspapers, journals, magazines and websites, with editorial comment providing context, drawing attention to key points and identifying differences in critical perspectives. The book also includes selections from published interviews with Ian McEwan.
... Read more

16. Ian McEwan's Enduring Love (Routledge Guides to Literature)
by Peter Childs
 Hardcover: 160 Pages (2007-02-23)
list price: US$95.00 -- used & new: US$69.35
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0415345588
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Ian McEwan is one of Britain's most inventive and important contemporary writers. Also adapted as a film, his novel Enduring Love (1997) is a tale of obsession that has both troubled and enthralled readers around the world. Renowned author Peter Childs explores the intricacies of this haunting novel to offer:

  • an accessible introduction to the text and contexts of Enduring Love
  • a critical history, surveying the many interpretations of the text from publication to the present
  • a selection of new and reprinted critical essays on Enduring Love, by Kiernan Ryan, Sean Matthews, Martin Randall, Paul Edwards, Rhiannon Davies and Peter Childs, providing a range of perspectives on the novel and extending the coverage of key critical approaches identified in the survey section
  • cross-references between sections of the guide, in order to suggest links between texts, contexts and criticism
  • suggestions for further reading.

Part of the Routledge Guides to Literature series, this volume is essential reading for all those beginning detailed study of Enduring Love and seeking not only a guide to the novel, but a way through the wealth of contextual and critical material that surrounds it.

... Read more

17. Ian McEwan: The Essential Guide
by Margaret Reynolds, Jonathan Noakes
Paperback: 200 Pages (2002-09-01)
list price: US$16.95 -- used & new: US$7.77
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0099437554
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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Focusing on: The Child in Time, Enduring Love, Atonement ... Read more

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5-0 out of 5 stars Excellent
Reynolds and Noakes have put together a very helpful book for fans of McEwan and academic readers alike.They provide detailed analyses of "The Child In Time", "Enduring Love", and "Atonement".But rather than insisting on one particular "reading" of each novel, they proceed by asking useful questions about certain passages, techniques and themes. These questions open up the texts in a variety of ways, encouraging you to reflect and re-read and ultimately to make up your own mind.The initial essay and interview with McEwan are informative, as are the selected reviews and the glossary of literary-critical terms at the back.(My only complaint is that an analysis of "Black Dogs" isn't included, which I think is one of McEwan's best.)Overall, this is a book which recognises the complexity of its subject, yet proceeds in a way that makes it accessible without "dumbing it down."In that sense, the book is much like those of McEwan himself: it invites you to explore some fairly complex issues, but in a remarkably engaging and entertaining way. ... Read more

18. Atonement
by Ian McEwan
Mass Market Paperback: 496 Pages (2007-11-27)

Isbn: 1400025559
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The novel opens on a sweltering summer day in 1935 at the Tallis family’s mansion in the Surrey countryside.Thirteen-year-old Briony has written a play in honor of the visit of her adored older brother Leon; other guests include her three young cousins -- refugees from their parent’s marital breakup -- Leon’s friend Paul Marshall, the manufacturer of a chocolate bar called “Amo” that soldiers will be able to carry into war, and Robbie Turner, the son of the family charlady whose brilliantly successful college career has been funded by Mr. Tallis.Jack Tallis is absent from the gathering; he spends most of his time in London at the War Ministry and with his mistress.His wife Emily is a semi-invalid, nursing chronic migraine headaches.Their elder daughter Cecilia is also present; she has just graduated from Cambridge and is at home for the summer, restless and yearning for her life to really begin.Rehearsals for Briony’s play aren’t going well; her cousin Lola has stolen the starring role, the twin boys can’t speak the lines properly, and Briony suddenly realizes that her destiny is to be a novelist, not a dramatist.

In the midst of the long hot afternoon, Briony happens to be watching from a window when Cecilia strips off her clothes and plunges into the fountain on the lawn as Robbie looks on.Later that evening, Briony thinks she sees Robbie attacking Cecilia in the library, she reads a note meant for Cecilia, her cousin Lola is sexually assaulted, and she makes an accusation that she will repent for the rest of her life.

The next two parts of Atonement shift to the spring of 1940 as Hitler’s forces are sweeping across the Low Countries and into France.Robbie Turner, wounded, joins the disastrous British retreat to Dunkirk.Instead of going up to Cambridge to begin her studies, Briony has become a nurse in one of London’s military hospitals.The fourth and final section takes place in 1999, as Briony celebrates her 77th birthday with the completion of a book about the events of 1935 and 1940, a novel called Atonement.

In its broad historical framework Atonement is a departure from McEwan’s earlier work, and he loads the story with an emotional intensity and a gripping plot reminiscent of the best nineteenth-century fiction.Brilliant and utterly enthralling in its depiction of childhood, love and war, England and class, the novel is a profoundly moving exploration of shame and forgiveness and the difficulty of absolution.

From the Trade Paperback edition. ... Read more

19. Conversations with Ian McEwan (Literary Conversations Series)
Hardcover: 224 Pages (2010-04-22)
list price: US$50.00 -- used & new: US$40.00
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Asin: 1604734191
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Conversations with Ian McEwan collects sixteen interviews, conducted over three decades, with the British author of such highly praised novels as Enduring Love, Atonement, Saturday, and On Chesil Beach. McEwan (b. 1948) discusses his views on authorship, the writing process, and major themes found in his fiction, but he also expands upon his interests in music, film, global politics, the sciences, and the state of literature in contemporary society.

McEwan's candid and forthcoming discussions with notable contemporary writers---Martin Amis, Zadie Smith, Ian Hamilton, David Remnick, and Stephen Pinker---provide readers with the most in-depth portrait available of the author and his works.

Readers will find McEwan to be just as engaging, humorous, and intelligent as his writings suggest. The volume includes interviews from British, Spanish, French, and American sources, two interviews previously available only in audio format, and a new interview conducted with the book's editor.

... Read more

20. Ian McEwan (New British Fiction)
by Lynn Wells
Paperback: 176 Pages (2010-01-15)
list price: US$14.95 -- used & new: US$12.47
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Asin: 1403987823
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This books provides students with an introduction to the work of Ian McEwan that places his fiction in historical and theoretical context. It explores his biography and his hallmark literary techniques, and it looks at the issues of ethics and representation, focusing particularly on his most recent fiction. Including a timeline of key dates and an interview with the author, this guide offers an accessible reading of McEwan's work and an overview of the varied critical reception this has provoked.
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