McEwan, Ian. Enduring Love. New York: Nan A. Talese, 1998. Summary
: One day while out on a picnic, science writer Joe and his wife Clarissa are involved in a tragic balloon accident that leads to one man's death. During the incident, however, he attracts the attention of the hyper-religious Jed Parry, who quickly develops a passionate obsession with Joe that escalates until he tries to kill Joe and, failing that, himself. Comments
: If Ian McEwan's Atonement
is written around a theme of, well, atonement
, then Enduring Love
is written around a theme of enduring love
. Some might be offended by the use of a homosexual, psychologically unstable Jesus freak as the villain of the piece, but I found the depiction to be surprisingly sensitive and nuanced. There is a remarkable lack of moral judgment in the novel's analysis of love; perhaps this is because McEwan is an atheist who isn't interested in mystifying the human condition. In fact, it links qualities of transcendent love to madness--quite likely close to the neurological truth.
Anyway, this is a really lovely book. The prose is tight, nothing extraneous, and many of the descriptions are poignant and evocative. At first, I was thinking that perhaps the execution might end up similar to Kazuo Ishiguro's The Unconsoled
with it's aggressively unreliable (sinister, even) narrator, but as it turns out that you're not crazy if they really are after you, as they say. Enduring Love
is about love, not about unreliable narrators, and if I have one complaint, it's that the novel never resolves the notion that understanding Jed's dysfunctional love will somehow illuminate normal forms of devotion. In the end, if nothing else, you're left with the impression that Jed's is the truest form of enduring love--only his appears likely to enduring forever. Which, given that it is doomed to be confined to an insane asylum, is a sobering possibility, at best. Notes
: trade paperback, 1st US edition (BCE); first published in the UK in 1997 Rating
- The best McEwan novel I've read thus far. Gorgeous and highly recommended.