Sunday, January 11, 2009

BOOK: Amsterdam by Ian McEwan

Amsterdam by Ian McEwan, 194 pages

book awards: Booker 1998; 1% well read

With friends like these guys, who needs enemies? A composer and a newspaper editor, both former lovers of a recently deceased woman, are neither very likable characters. They are both a little thrown by her death, and both face some professional challenges, but try to rely on each other.

I read the book with interest but with a very detached view. I wanted to see what happened, and there were some good plot twists but if it had been a longer book, I don't know how invested I would have remained. The writing is lovely, with impassioned descriptions of the music of the symphony and some philosophical discussions of the role of newspapers in scandals but these guys were so self-centered and lonely that it was hard to care what happened to them. I'm not sure why this would be a Booker winner; it was well written and makes some comments (not completely sure what they would be, - tempermental artists? office politics? the role of art in society? but I'm sure they are there) but it's not a book I'd rave about. I much preferred his Atonement book as I cared about the characters and could identify with the dilemmas. The more I think about it, the more I think these guys were just asses.


  1. I'm with you on Amsterdam; "detached" was how I felt, too. It's surprising to me that it won the Booker Prize, too. Like you, I enjoyed Atonement much more.

  2. I read this a few years ago and while I did enjoy the feel of the writing, I didn't much care for the characters either. I have kind of a love/hate relationship with McEwan. More love than hate though, as I continue to read his books..

  3. I agree with you. It lacks emotion, and I probably wouldn't have finished it if it had been longer. This is the only one of his books that I've read, and I'm interested to see what I make of his others. Hopefully they'll be a lot better!

  4. I find McEwan a little hard to read. Not sure if its his material or his writing style though.


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