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Publisher's Summary

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

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  • 3.7 out of 5.0
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Performance

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Story

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  • Story

Too Clever by Half...

I came close to abandoning Sweet Tooth at about the two thirds mark. On the surface, Ian McEwan's Serena Frome is yet another poorly crafted unreliable narrator from the UK's literary in-crowd, but well- it's Ian McEwan so I stuck with it. I suspected the discussion of various 'literary tricks' (Serena's term, not mine) peppered throughout the novel would eventually be applied to this tale of espionage, literature, love and naivete.
I was not disappointed: not really. Those literary discussions do indeed telegraph to the the reader what's really going on: it’s all very clever and exquisitely crafted with not a stitch dropped, a superfluous word or clue misplaced in this literary mystery.

The problem is Serena. My mind accompanied Juliet Stevenson's superb reading of Sweet Tooth with a constant harangue of “what a TWIT!”. In the end, the reader is made privy to the reasons for Serena's utter twitiness, but in order to get there, one suffers through her entire banal, twitty narrative. McEwan made one mistake, holding himself back too much with that voice: he seems to have forgotten the reader in all his clever construction. That one mistake prevents Sweet Tooth from being a masterpiece.

Impressed as I was with Sweet Tooth, the reader has to work too hard to arrive at a resolution to the mystery of Serena Frome.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Sally
  • UNIVERSITY HEIGHTS, OH, United States
  • 01-02-13

I like Ian macewan but . . .

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.

5 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • JAne
  • Oak Park, Illinois, United States
  • 12-28-12

Not as good as I hoped for....

Is there anything you would change about this book?

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.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Underwhelmed by this one.

Would you try another book from Ian McEwan and/or Juliet Stevenson?

I have read other McEwan's books and enjoyed them much more.

What was your reaction to the ending? (No spoilers please!)

Found the book just dragged along and now, about a week later, can't even remember the ending.

3 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Decent story, good narrator

I guess this author likes to use literary devices, as the twists (games?) here are similar to what I've encountered in the (some-not all) other books I've read by this author. It is a spy story that isn't a spy story. A romance that isn't exactly a romance, either. Neither do any of the characters have stellar motives for their behavior, so it was difficult to "cheer" for anyone. The author uses another literary device within the narrative, to share some of his own, older short stories....which were, well, related to this novel - in a way. Some parts in the middle drag a bit, but, upon rewinding, I found that I hadn't missed anything truly important in those occasional lost minutes.
I thought some, not all, of the "button it all up" pieces of the plot at the end were a bit contrived, though - and I expected better from the author who gave us Atonement.
If my review sounds muddled, it's because I am still feeling unsure of how I feel about my reading experience - and this may be one of those books I never quite make up my mind about. The writer in me enjoyed this experience more than the reader, I think.
Great narrator, though- soothing tone accompanied by a lovely aristocratic British accent which worked very well with the story's actual narrator - and - all Americans find this type of British accent enchanting to listen to, right? If you like McEwan's other books, you will probably enjoy this one, too.

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Brilliant

Wonderful performance by Juliet Stevenson. As always, McEwan's prose is succinct and clever. Highly recommend.

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Original and special

I had read almost all the books of Ian McEwan, but for me this is his best, I love the style, the story. This books is original, different. the kind of books you do not get tire, you are there 100% all the time. Thanks Ian McEwan I love a good book and is so difficult to find one. Thanks again.

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Boring

somehow Ian McEwan manages to make a spy thriller boring.
The prose is excellent and the descriptions of people and places are evocative. The characters are fully realises and complex.
the problem is the pacing overall arc. I was left bored and impatient for a climax that never fully arrives.
the reader was superb, the perfect voice to go with the narrator.

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Slow and a little boring but a good story

It takes a lot to get into this story but the writing is good and it ends up being a good story.
I've now listened to it 1 1/2 times and I just can't stay focused. A lot of extra info that doesn't seem to matter at all. If you're going to read any of this author's books, pick Atonement. And then see the movie. That's a great story. This one is just kinda boring.

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Great!

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Yes... wonderful story!

Who was your favorite character and why?

Tony Canning

What about Juliet Stevenson’s performance did you like?

She brought the story alive.

Any additional comments?

Story became a little slow 3/4's of the way through... but the ending makes up for it.