Sweet Tooth - Ian McEwan
I have to confess, I have read, but didn’t love Atonement. I know McEwan is considered something of a modern literary genius but I just can’t wax lyrical about Atonement. Having said that it’s the only book I have read by McEwan, it was a few years ago, I would like to think I am more intelligent with my reading than I was back then and I’ve spent the last month being exposed to people on twitter quoting their favourite McEwan lines of which I was impressed;
‘A person is, among all else, a material thing, easily torn and not easily mended’
And so I went into this book really wanting to like it and appreciate it’s beautiful writing.
To start with it’s a bit like a love story but with thriller potential. Then it peters out and becomes a love story without real direction but with a twist at the end that supposedly makes the whole book brilliant. Can you guess that for me it didn’t?
I guessed early on that something was going on in the background with Tom and his secret book, granted not quite the extent of what was going on but I very strongly suspected he knew about Serenas ‘double life’.
I really didn’t like Serena, I found her cold, bland and lacking in emotion. This is something we all agreed on but we couldn’t really answer whether this was because it was written from Toms point of view, who was angry with Serena and was deliberately painting in her in a bad light or whether it was just McEwans writing. I found this annoying, the whole book could have been a lie and we would be none the wiser. It left me feeling almost cheated. Serena went on about how much she wanted a book to mirror her own life and hey ho here is one. It just all felt convenient/deliberate rather than clever.
We didn’t really spend much time deliberating whether Serena actually went to meet Tom and I think this was because we didn’t really care. We did like the 1970s element of the story, it was refreshing to read about such a tumultuous time. I haven’t really come across many books that focus on this, although the books coverage was quite superficial and really could have gone to town with this interesting period of our history. We also liked Shirley and found her to be the character who seemed to have the most vitality and warmth. Was this because Tom liked her and so cast her in a positive light?
We kind of split into two camps as to what else we liked about the story – those of us who liked Toms stories (me) the manikin, the vicar and so on and those of us who liked the love storey element but thought it slightly lacking. We all could have done with a bit more tense spying action and were disappointed Serena didn’t end up in Russia as a double agent taking Tom along for the ride. We decided this would have made a better novel and challenged one of our members to rewrite the story labelling it ‘savoury tooth’!
I think for me though I just couldn’t get past the not knowing if it was a deliberate decision by McEwan to make Serena so lacking or just weak writing. Our previous question of the month was ‘if we don’t like the main character of a book do we like the book?’ and the general answer tended to be no. So why write a story with an unlovable lead?
It is a well written book, McEwan certainly knows how to write (yes I got laughed at when I said that at the meeting) but when reading reviews of it in general I came across this quote which I think sums it up perfectly “Its like an ice sculpture, perfectly formed but very cold”
More warmth please it is August!
We gave it a 5.5. Next book Sense and Sensibility by Joanna Trollope
Question of the month. I had put forward Donna Tartt - The Goldfinch as a suggestion for next months book however after a quick chat about it we decided to put it off until later in the year as it was more a autumn/winter book. I thought this was interesting and so question of the month is as follows – is there any book you are putting off reading until autumn/winter? If yes which one(s) and why?