McEwan, Ian. Amsterdam. New York: Nan A. Talese, 1999. Summary
: Photographer Molly Lane is dead, and three of her aging, upper-crust paramours are feuding. Newspaper editor Vernon decides to expose the foreign secretary's secret taste for transvestitism, which leads to philosophical disagreement with his composer friend Clive. By the end, the two have unwittingly hired the same euthanizing outfit to have the other murdered. Comments
: I don't know what I was expecting, maybe something along the lines of Atonement
...but definitely not
what this novel turned out to be! And I don't mean that in a negative sense. Though I must admit I found the first third of the novel to be a bit of a drag, meditating at length upon the various men's subjectivities and leading me to think that I was in for a truncated version of The Unconsoled
by Kazuo Ishiguro, it picked up right quick. And took a tragicomic turn with Vernon and Clive having each other murdered, inadvertently keeping the pact that they had made when they still considered each other friends.
Of all the characters in the novel, I found myself sympathizing with Vernon and his rough yet earnest sense of justice first and foremost. Clive, on the other hand, was a bit irritating, insulated all his life from genuine trouble and obsessed as he was with his desire for personal greatness--a desire so strong that he decided to pursue it instead of saving a fellow hiker from rape. I confess to a stab of pleasure reading that his magnum opus turned out to be not so magnum after all. Meanwhile, Julian was a caricature, near-impossible to take seriously. All in all, you get the sense that it is the wholly ruthless, amoral and uninspired people that win in the end. A rather gloomy view of the world, when one thinks about it. But of course, their lives were so senseless and petty in the first place, so why should one be bothered to care? Which is kinda the point of this novel, actually. Notes
: hardcover, 1st American edition; first published in the UK in 1998 Rating
- McEwan evidently takes great pleasure in ripping the artiste classes a new one. And it's quite fun watching him do it.
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