Winner of such prestigious honors as the Booker Prize and Whitbread Award, Ian McEwan is justifiably regarded as a modern master. Set in 1972, Sweet Tooth follows Cambridge student Serena Frome, whose intelligence and beauty land her a job with England's intelligence agency, MI5. In an attempt to monitor writers' politics, MI5 tasks Serena with infiltrating the literary circle of author Tom Healy. But soon matters of trust and identity subvert the operation.
©2012 Ian McEwan (P)2012 Random House Audiobooks
This is a spy novel like Hershey's is fine chocolate--okay, but a pale imitation of the real thing.
It was gimmicky, like the middle school game where one child asks another a series of questions with one-word answers, then makes up a story that incorporates all the words. Maybe it makes sense, maybe not. But everything that happens--even seemingly irrelevant details-- show up in the end.
The best parts were the short stories that Tom wrote--and be sure to pay attention, because like everything else, they will show up in the end.
Oddly, the book wasn't boring, even though all the main characters were boring and unlikeable (except for Shirley, who was a hoot.). Once I realized that there was no "there" there, I stopped waiting for anything substantial to happen and just listened to the narrative. This was actually pleasant, since the writing flowed well and the narrator was excellent.
Every book doesn't have to be a great book--and this certainly isn't. But if you quickly give up that expectation, it's a good read--like a Hershey's bar.
This audiobook was compelling, riveting, beautifully written, and expertly narrated. It is an intriguing tour-de-force. I highly recommend it.
This is a terrific book, relatively short and very well read. One of its pleasures is the view of 1970s England, which is very distinctly different from the modern financial capital that London has since become. I enjoyed revisiting that time as well as that place, despite being sadly reminded of what life was like for women in that time.
The story is very well read by Juliet Stevenson, one of my favorite narrators, and is another fascinating view of womanhood from the perspective of a male author who seems very much a character in this novel.
One of my favorite books is ATONEMENT by Ian McEwan, also a story about a strong female writer and this book shares many of the things I loved about that book as well. The story weaves in upon itself in a most satisfying way like ATONEMENT did. It also has many levels but despite this complexity is never hard to follow. It doesn't scream 'LITERATURE' but it is literary in a substantive way, reflecting on the nature of writing and truth and questioning the reliability of the narrator but without losing the power of the narrative.
I really enjoyed it and highly recommend it both as a listening experience and a thoughtful story.
After finishing, I feel manipulated and slimy. I need a shower. Juliet
Stevenson is a brilliant reader. The best part of the experience.
Ian McEwan is always worth reading, and Juliet Stevenson is perfect - gets the tone just right. While not quite the same calibre as Atonement or Amsterdam, Sweet Tooth is full of wonderful prose.
The way the story comes full circle at the end, back to the imagination of the writer.
I really liked the note of innocence that her reading brings to Serena's story.
While Serena Frome is the pivotal character, she is propped up by others, especially Shirley and Tom. Max was the least successful character, and his not quite convincing role is the one weakness in an otherwise tight story.
Literature adds to reality, it does not simply describe it. C.S. Lewis
When the summary mentions MI5 in the early 70's, I think of the generation that lived in fear of repeating Burgess and the Cambridge spy ring. The generation that came after Peter Wright, after George Smiley.
McEwan makes references to this generation of brinksmanship, but it is just name dropping. This is not the spy novel I expected; this is part sappy love story and part a writer's description of his introversion.
The heroine is talented at describing her sexual needs and experiences, a talent which may in turn represent her generation. These depictions guarantee that readers will stay with the book through the slow sections.
I enjoyed the portrayal of daily life in England at a time of crisis. McEwan is a good writer, but Stevenson is a more talented narrator.
"Sweet Tooth" is a good book, but not the book I expected, so I was disappointed.
I did not find his main character, Serena Frome, very believable or sympathetic. It is not clear why the main male character is so smitten with her, nor she with him. By the end u learn that the whole story has been a rather elaborate conceit, which makes for a clever twist on the part of the author--but doesn't make me care any more about the characters.
The setting in MI-5 sounds more intriguing than it turns out to be. I would consider that perhaps MacEwan is resting on his laurels, altho I read that this and ATONEMENT are his personal favorites among his novels thus far. I also read that it is being made into a movie--this may be one of those stories that can come to life on the screen in a way that it did not in print.
This audio version also suffered from an uninspired performance by the narrator.
The NPR reviewer, Maureen Corrigan, did a short review on the program Fresh Air that aptly articulated for me my problems with this novel and I recommend it to anyone considering this book.
It's not until the final chapter that you realize just how cleverly this plot is constructed.
What seems like a simple storyline turns itself inside out in the final pages. McEwan populates 1970s London with flawed, relatable characters, all more than a little self absorbed.
My only reservation lies in a few passages that become overly introspective and drag down the narrative. But even that is redeemed by insightful social commentary on the cold war era and the social and economic chaos of the period. It's a compulsive read I was sorry to finish.
I found no redeeming values of any kind in the main character. She was not interesting, and everything seemed to happen to her because of the men in her life, not because she had any initiative or talent that lead her to interesting things. I actually found the story to be a total bore. Performance was good.
I have read other McEwan's books and enjoyed them much more.
Found the book just dragged along and now, about a week later, can't even remember the ending.
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