Friday, March 31, 2006

#23 - Amsterdam

I came late to Ian McEwan, reading Atonement first, and then the only other book of his that I've read is Saturday. I've never truly delved into the backlist, until now. Amsterdam won the Booker Prize in 1998, and it's a swift, surefooted tale that reads more like a morality play (as reviews suggest) than a straightforward novel.

The book opens with the funeral of Molly Lane. Two of her former lovers, newspaperman Vernon Halliday and composer Clive Linley, stand by and attend the bare bones service. In the pages that follow, as the friendship between the two men fails, so to do their respective careers. Everything thus orchestrated in some way by George Lane, Molly's widower, a powerful man they both despise.

Amsterdam, keen on detail with McEwan's sharp eye for the intrinsic and complex minutiae of everyday, reads almost like a precursor to Saturday. A lot of detail is spent on the day-to-day activities of each of the men, trapped in a way by their own success, and the fallout from midlife failures. One of the cut-out blurbs calls the novel "chilling", and I'd agree, both in terms of what happens (I don't want to give it away) but also in terms of how the story is told. There's also a level of obvious detachment from the narrator, which makes the eventual underlying moral ambiguities all the more interesting.

It's a short novel too, thankfully, because I've been finding the Book A Day challenge a bit rough the past few days. Now, I've got to get reading for tomorrow's installment, as I'm shooting a movie all day, I doubt I'll get a book finished. In fact, I'm going to take tomorrow off, if that's okay with all of you.

1 comment:

scarbie doll said...

I read this on the plane to London, 3.5 years ago when you and I were both working at our dream job. I also really enjoyed it. The thing about McEwan is that his plotlines and descriptions of the details of people's lives are so strong, but there is no snappy dialogue that stays with you. So though you are left with a mental picture or a palatable mood, the book fades away. You can respect a McEwan book, you can definitely enjoy a McEwan book, but I don't think you can "heart" a McEwan book.

But maybe that's just me.