I would recommend this book, but with reservations. McEwen is more of a John Donne rather than a William Shakespeare in that McEwen's intellectualism makes his work somewhat less organic. One marvels at his invention even as he exposes all of the inner mechanics. But it is as if McEwen wants to claim all of the glory for himself, which left me a bit cold at the end.
N/A - did not read print, only listened to audio
That it turned out much better than it began.
no, so N/A
Shirley Shilling; she was an interesting adjunct character, and I thought had a lot to offer. She would be intriguing to hold a conversation with.
This book started out in a very slow and somewhat annoying (to me) manner, but built to a really amazing ending. It has an Alice Through the Looking Glass quality that is the reason I gave it the rating I did.
Juliet Stevenson is awesome. I've listened to many books she's narrated including Jane Eyre, To the Ligthhouse, Mansfield Park, Northanger Abbey, Middlemarch, Room with a View, and she reads beautifully in every one, including this one. And even though I'm kind of complaining in my review, Ian McEwan's writing in general is exquisite. I tend to read his work to help improve my own writing.
The end left me hanging. I'm still not sure that everything turned out fine or not because of that abrupt ending (and I don't want to spoil the ending, so I won't elaborate further). I think technically the choice of ending was fine, but as a consumer of this story, as an audience member, I felt it wasn't enough. I have general complaints about McEwan summarizing too much of his story instead of writing out more actual scenes because his tendency to summarize leaves me with little to visualize in my own head, so instead I'm sitting there processing information and waiting for the next scene... so with this ending... Imagine you're watching a movie of this, and it ends like that: would you be happy? I wasn't. I feel like I was cheated out of an ending. Abrupt endings are more appropriate for short stories. I feel novels need a longer wrap-up, and though I understand this ending is part of his interesting plot twist, I still would have liked to have visualized a final wrap-up scene at the end in my own head.
I was only in Chapter 5 when I started writing the following out of frustration: "Oh my god--only a high caliber literary writer like Ian McEwan can take a cool story idea like a young woman joining MI5 and make it dull in that achingly beautiful, dull way that literary writers with prestigious backgrounds like to do. I'm at 2:26:05, Chapter 5, and so far all I'm hearing is summary. He's writing a 1st person point of view that's almost entirely summarized. Even when he starts a passage with "One day..." he still ends up summarizing the day. I'm at the point that when there is an actual scene with some dialogue, I'm gulping down the words as if they were drops of water in a hot desert, and then when he moves on to more summary, I feel like I didn't get enough and I'm suffering with thirst, hoping for more water, more cool drops of dialogue and scene. It's frustrating that the best writers on the planet write with such thin plots. What's the deal?" Now that I finished the book, I have to admit that things do pick up as you get closer to the end when things start to unravel. If you want a cool spy novel, this isn't it. And it takes a really long time to get the story going. This is really a love story, and though I'm sure McEwan had to do some research on Mi5 to ground the story in reality, it's still a love story about a writer and a woman who loves literature, which means he's not straying too far away from writing what he knows.
I bought this book because Juliet Stevenson is such a good reader. The book is well read, but I kept skipping chapters and didn't seem to get anywhere with the story. It dragged on and on. I never did read the last chapter because I just couldn't bear any more. Not recommended.
Pretentious meta-literary claptrap. Not surprising that one of the characters admires John Fowles. I don't. Twelve hours of my life I'll never get back.
Typically brilliant reading wasted on distinctly unbrilliant material.
no- it was too slow of a book to listen to but I might enjoy reading not listening to this.
I have read other Ian McEwan books and enjoyed them. He writes beautiful stories but perhaps they should be read and not listened to.
Average- I have come to realize that I have a hard time listening to narrators with a British accent.
This started out with everything I like -- a good story, excellent writing, some Cold War spy stuff, a central character who pulls you into the action, a setting that evokes an era I remember well.
It all rolls along splendidly with increasing tension and hints of sinister doings. I'm thinking I'm going to read everything Ian McEwan has ever written when wham! A final plot twist so impossible, so unbelievable and so contrived that the entire book just deflates all at once. It's as though McEwan didn't know how to end it and didn't.
I like McEwan's writing enough to give him another try but this was a case of cheating.
We read this as part of our book club and found it disappointing. It wasn't a bad book, but you found yourself often wanting the characters to be better, the plot to be much tighter, and the whole concept less vanilla. It's a sort of twist on spy novel and romance that didn't quite work for me or the other book club members. In my listen, I kept on waiting for something to happen. Not a bad book, just not great.
As usual, McEwan makes great use of language, however, this book is short on plot. He has about enough material for a novella, a story about half as long. The protagonist and narrator, Serena, is not stupid nor intellectually shallow, but she continually defines herself by whatever man she happens to have latched on to. The story goes through a succession of her lovers but focuses primarily on an author and poet. It is hard to understand why he loves her. I'm not saying there are not people like Serena, but I don't find their story or plight interesting. The story drags with long asides and excursions. I cannot say more without spoiling the plot, but I found the way in which the ending is handled really lame--a real cop-out by McEwan.
Well written and well read, this is an interesting story about a woman working for British Intelligence in the 1970s. McEwan does a good job of developing the characters and the story keeps you interested, but it is overall more about the literary device than about real plot. I enjoyed it, but was left wanting a bit more from the story.