Sunday, May 16, 2010

Marieke's review - Amsterdam

Amsterdam by Ian McEwan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I want to do justice to Amsterdam and I know I can't even come close. Luckily, there are lots of folks out there who love Ian McEwan's writing and know how deep he delves into his characters. So you already know how flawless his prose is, how masterful his internal landscapes.

Amsterdam is more of the best of McEwan -- every character is so perfectly fleshed out that their every action, however bizarre, makes sense in the context of their perspective. And because this is McEwan, after all, we will have characters acting bizarrely.

Four men who loved Molly Lane meet each other again at her funeral, most with mutual dislike. The implications of Molly's death and her ongoing hold on these men bring about an extended run of cause-and-effect. Dominoes. Once begun, inevitable.

Though this might sound a bit dour, the book surprised me with its humor. What these men really think of each other -- and of themselves -- is enough to crack me up. The pages kept turning as the situation got more and more absurd.

The end reveals the extent of all their self-deception in typical McEwan brilliance.

More things to love:
  • A tongue-in-cheek inside look at the running of a British tabloid newspaper
  • An old-fashioned duel hilariously reinvented for the modern world
  • The loveliest and most detailed hallucinations I've ever read
I stand by my assertion that McEwan always reminds me of Virginia Woolf, in style and execution if not storyline. Amsterdam is my favorite of his so far.

My original review is posted here.


  1. You know, I wasn't going to click on the link to this post because I knew it would cause trouble.

    And it is (causing trouble) because it's tempting me to buy the book. Well, there goes some more rent money out the door.

    Nice review. Thanks (I think).


  2. Great review...especially your point about the inevitability of the dominoes falling!

    I loved this McEwan and have just finished Solar recently and Amsterdam still stands as one of my most favorite books...

  3. Thank you both for your nice comments!

    Malcolm, I was lucky enough to get this from the library. But then again, it would be a nice one to own. You can't go wrong!

    Lorraine, I'm curious about Solar and I see our library has it too!