Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Trevor's Review of McEwan's Amsterdam

This is the funniest McEwan book I've read. It's also probably one of the funniest Booker winners I've read. That's not to say it's light, but its dark humor definitely hits the right spot.

McEwan's style is excellent. When he wants the book to speed up, the prose forces the reader to move quickly. When he wants things to slow down (which doesn't happen often in this quick read) he manages to slow it down while still being interesting.

The story is a lark. I had a lot of fun with it. It picks out three men in their fifties. Each has been a lover of Molly's, who's dead on the first page. Each attends her funeral. Clive is a composer, about to write his most important work, a work that will cement his place as a genius. Vernon is top editor of The Judge, one of London's newspapers, and he's got a story that is guaranteed to push it to the top. The other, Julian, is a politician, favored to become PM. These characters and the novel as a whole parodies the world in which we live wonderfully. Impressively, though it's been ten years since Amsterdam won the prize, and even though the world has changed, many things, the things this novel picks up and plays with, have not changed at all, and this novel still hits the right spots in the eary twenty-first century.

That said, I didn't really think it was much more than that. It had some great commentary on society and art, jealousy and ambition, death and revenge; however, the commentary seemed more fitting to a column in a high-brow newspaper than a Booker prize winner. It was ironic, it was witty, and it was fun. But unlike other Bookers and other McEwan novels nothing else really stood out. What was unique was the story, not what it said. Or maybe more will come to me with time, and I'll see just how profound this book really was. Still, a quick, fun read that I recommend. It's better than this last paragraph makes it sound.
3 stars out of 5.

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