Serena Frome, the beautiful daughter of an Anglican bishop, has a brief affair with an older man during her final year at Cambridge and finds herself being groomed for the intelligence services. The year is 1972. Britain, confronting economic disaster, is being torn apart by industrial unrest and terrorism and faces its fifth state of emergency. The Cold War has entered a moribund phase, but the fight goes on, especially in the cultural sphere.
Serena, a compulsive reader of novels, is sent on a ‘secret mission’ that brings her into the literary world of Tom Haley, a promising young writer. First she loves his stories; then she begins to love the man. Can she maintain the fiction of her undercover life? And who is inventing whom? To answer these questions, Serena must abandon the first rule of espionage – trust no one.
McEwan’s mastery dazzles us in this superbly deft and witty story of betrayal and intrigue, love, and the invented self.
©2012 Ian McEwan (P)2012 Random House Audiobooks
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"Well written but, ultimately, not that interesting"
This is the first Ian McEwan novel that I have read or listened to. It is well written and no doubt very clever in places. The trouble is, I found it very tedious. Nothing much of interest happens and after 3 hours in I must admit to getting restless. Another 5 hours in and I was seriously considering giving up. I stuck it out though, not because I particularly wanted to find out what happened, but because Ian McEwan is a highly rated writer and I thought there must be more here if I just stick with it.
This is a book, I think, about deception, perception, plus a lot about the art of writing itself, all good stuff. The narrator is looking back on an early episode in her life which, unfortunately, she manages to convey in a manner which made it seem tedious. When summarising events it sounds quite good, but somehow becomes dreary and uninteresting in the telling. Yes, there's lots of everyday detail but you need to balance this against dramatic events. Much has been said about the twist at the end, but as twists go its ok. It doesn't make you go 'wow'. When you reflect on it you realise that, yes, it's not surprising that it should end that way and it is appropriate to the story.
I think this book is best read rather than listened to. I'm sure that there is a lot hidden in the text that I missed and would have benefitted from re-reading passages to gain that extra insight. Only three stars though for being clever and well written but ultimately not that interesting.
"entertaining but slight"
This is a nice way to pass the time, but the novel is very thin from what one is used to from McEwan, from whom one always expects some penetrating insights into human nature and philosophical ideas. I would almost call this a pot-boiling,- it's superior to most novels in this vein but not much. Disappointing
"Well its not Atonement!"
I am a fan of Ian McEwan. That said I think I am objective in my reviews. Being a fan doesn’t mean that you like all of your favourite’s works and I regret this is one of my least liked.
It started well for me. Good idea, colourful characters, interesting subplot and a pleasure to read. By the end the tale seemed to get bogged down and the plot seemed to be lacking. The prose is excellent. McEwan always is and a delight to read but that does not save the book for me. This isn’t another Atonement or even Cement garden I am afraid.
"Clever but a bit dreary."
This book has a very strong atmosphere, it left me depressed even though I respected the style, the reading was good and I was intrigued by the plot.
'Sweet Tooth' is a very easily read and followed book. The main content was very interestingly read and finished with a very unexpected twist at the end. Given that the book was written by a man from a woman's perspective, it held a degree of suspense though the scenarios were slightly unrealistic. I listened to/read this book as it was the 'set' book for the book club that I participate in bi- monthly with some neighbours and friends, around a social gathering. We all rated it highly and an average of ten votes worked out at slightly below 8/10 - hence the title of this review.
"Detailed and Intelligent"
I've been a fan of Ian McEwan ever since I was given a paperback of the cement garden in the early 90s, and for me personally is this one of his finest works to date. It's a spy story that is very believable and documents the more prosaic aspects of the intelligence services and is all the better for those visceral details. A few very interesting characters are met along the way and is superb read by Juliet Stevenson.
"Not what I was expecting"
Next time I will find out a bit more about a book before I download it. I expected more of a who-dunnit. Storyline takes a long time to get going but I did get into it and wanted to keep listening when I persevered to Part 2.
"Slow Burner Burnt Me Out Halfway"
Juliet Stephenson narrates beautifully but for that I would have given up earlier.
A fictional memoir should not attempt to imitate the tempo of a non fictional memoir. Rather it should potray a storyline that has a distinct plot and keeps up a good pace.
I'm sure many people will enjoy this book and forgive me if this picked up later on but it was not for me, it's my own fault I should not purchase purely on the strength of the author's name.
As to the subject matter and level of research proabably about right, the activities of MI5 were probably mainly mundane and quite unlike Ian Fleming's storylines.
"A great listen"
Very good book, loved it. Excellent writing, amazing characters and historical/social background, beautifully read. I can see why many people gave it a 5. I will only give a 5 to books that completely overwhelm me but it most definitely deserves a 4.
I really enjoyed this. The reading by Juliet Stevenson is just fantastic - one of the best - and makes a good book even better.
I think I'll be listening again. I'm sure I missed many strong clues along the way about the way the book ends.
This reminded me in some ways of William Boyd's "Restless" and "Waiting For Sunrise" (a pretty good recommendation in itself), but also very different.
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