24 June 2009
Ian McEwan: AMSTERDAM
Ian McEwan, it is widely acknowledged, is one of our most talented living novelists, definitely in the running (although I wouldn't say winning the race) to be remembered long past his death. Or so I'm told. You see, prior to this morning, I'd never read anything by Ian McEwan, and starting with Amsterdam apparently wasn't the best way to kick things off (so the reviewers tell me, and so I am inclined--based on my reading experience--to believe). It's not that Amsterdam is a bad book, because it's not, or at least not in any way that I can pin down. McEwan is a good writer, and his good writing shines through here. What is shines through, however, is a pretty simplistic and mechanical plot. That's not necessarily a bad thing, as many a great novel has overcome a plodding or overdone plotline and soared to success; this one, however, doesn't. There's no point at which a reader can sit back for a second and think, "Ah, here we go!" We never do go anywhere, really, although the main characters make it to Amsterdam in time to arrange each others' deaths (didn't see that coming halfway through? Get your eyes checked [metaphorically: eye exams are pricey things, although one-a-year always seems to've done me good]). Amsterdam did inspire in me an interest in reading more McEwan, but it's not an interest that's going to burn a hole in my to-read list. I'll get to Atonement and the rest of them someday, but if anything, Amsterdam, which takes home a solid C, has pushed that day back a good year or two.