Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Latest from Ian McEwan

I was thrilled to download an advanced digital review copy of Sweet Tooth, McEwan's latest entry in his formidable list of prize winning novels, especially because you never know what to expect from him. Each book is so very different from the other. Think Atonement, Saturday, Solar or On Chesil Beach (my least favorite).

As a fanatic fan of the BBC production MI-5, the plot of Sweet Tooth grabbed me immediately: the '70's, the cold war is winding down as the IRA's methods become increasingly violent. A maths major at Cambridge, Serena Frome is the daughter of a middle-class family.  Dad is a church bishop, mom placates parishioners, but Serena is destined for bigger things.

 It all begins with a passionate summer affair with a much older man, a professor at college who schools her in much more than academics, then cruelly disappears from her life. Serena is a fabulous character, resilient, stubborn, a practical romantic if that isn't a contradiction of terms. Think "if you can't be with the one you love, love the one you're with." McEwan does an outstanding job of placing himself in Serena's head and channeling a 20 something with guts and bravado searching for a life of excitement and meaning.

She gets it all when she's hired for a low level desk job at MI-5. Because of her reputation as a great, eclectic reader - look out all you bibliophiles out there - Serena is chosen for her first important mission, operation Sweet Tooth. Her duty, should she choose to accept it, is to ingratiate herself with the aspiring author Tom Haley and to make him an offer he'd be loathe to refuse, a lovely pot of cash for stories with a certain political bent. Will he fall for her? Brains, beauty, treachery? Readers will love betting on who will outsmart whom.

McEwan's novel can be read simply for fun, which it is, but there are naturally messages here for discussion. Artistic integrity, deception, manipulation, self-knowledge, trust. These words give you a sense of all the fodder for the deeper reader. And, for those looking for the back story, wait until you've read the novel,  which will be out in just a few weeks, then check out this interview with the author. http://www.scotsman.com/the-scotsman/books/interview-ian-mcewan-author-1-2474675

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