Ian McEwan

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so is Atonement his best? My first, liked it fine (especially Briony's nursing passages).

Dr Morbius, Friday, 16 November 2007 22:06 (twelve years ago) link

I like some of his earlier books much better: enduring love is my favorite. also the innocent and black dogs. those three are more psychological/supernatural than atonement. a child in time is about 3/4 great, creepy abducted child psycho-thriller.

m coleman, Friday, 16 November 2007 22:37 (twelve years ago) link

His best are probably 'Atonement', 'The Innocent', 'Enduring Love', 'Black Dogs' and 'On Chesil Beach'. If you REALLY like any of these, his earlier books (and 'Amsterdam', which is fun but fluff) will probably be a bit disappointing.

James Morrison, Friday, 16 November 2007 23:47 (twelve years ago) link

The Innocent takes place in postwar Berlin and has kind of a Third Man feel to it, Morbius!

James Redd and the Blecchs, Saturday, 17 November 2007 00:36 (twelve years ago) link

A guy who eventually would stalk me gave me a signed copy of Enduring Love when it first came out. I never read it, but I could never decide whether the first word was an adjective or a gerund.

Casuistry, Saturday, 17 November 2007 09:57 (twelve years ago) link

That's sort of the point.

James Morrison, Sunday, 18 November 2007 06:11 (twelve years ago) link

I remember being really gripped by the opening of Enduring Love, but thought the rest of the book had a hard time living up to it.

Madchen, Sunday, 18 November 2007 23:17 (twelve years ago) link

There's already a McEwan thread, but I've rattled on about Atonement too much before to start again. Unless a certain poster wants me to paste the juicy bits from our subsequent (highly rewarding) email correspondence about the novel's reader-psychology aspects here?

Just got offed, Sunday, 18 November 2007 23:55 (twelve years ago) link

Total whore.

Eyeball Kicks, Monday, 19 November 2007 15:35 (twelve years ago) link

I searched and only found a "Child in Time" ILE thread.

Dr Morbius, Monday, 19 November 2007 20:45 (twelve years ago) link

Definitively middlebrow.

Eyeball Kicks, Tuesday, 20 November 2007 22:51 (twelve years ago) link

A panderer.

Eyeball Kicks, Tuesday, 20 November 2007 22:54 (twelve years ago) link

Shocking waste of talent.

Eyeball Kicks, Tuesday, 20 November 2007 22:55 (twelve years ago) link

A Child in Time and Black Dogs are the best of the early books. Lots of the pre-Atonement ones are marred by plot contrivances and outrageous coincidences.

Alfred, Lord Sotosyn, Wednesday, 21 November 2007 03:13 (twelve years ago) link

he's really good at capturing the nuances of middle-aged/senescent het coupling.

Alfred, Lord Sotosyn, Wednesday, 21 November 2007 03:13 (twelve years ago) link

Black Dogs was good. What's the one about the brother and the sister, The Cement Garden? That one was short and menacing.

James Redd and the Blecchs, Wednesday, 21 November 2007 03:28 (twelve years ago) link

Atonement is tremendously artful; Saturday I think has power though some intelligent people detest it. The Child In Time is pretty all over the place.

the pinefox, Thursday, 22 November 2007 15:32 (twelve years ago) link

Atonement, Saturday, The Cement Garden, On Chesil Beach--fantastic.

Amsterdam--OK but not brilliant.

three handclaps, Friday, 23 November 2007 02:41 (twelve years ago) link

After the fantastic opening section Atonement makes me see why some people dislike McEwan so much. It captures the character of the protaganist so perfectly, then chooses to throw that away. The Cement Garden and Black Dogs are the ones I really enjoyed - they're concise and atmospheric. Some of the short stories are pretty nice too. I guess I'd probably get on well with the new one, but the idea behind it doesn't appeal to me much at all.

Greist, Saturday, 24 November 2007 21:26 (twelve years ago) link

the child in time

elan, Sunday, 25 November 2007 04:59 (twelve years ago) link

I've seen McEwan criticised as a neo-con. Does anyone know what this is based on? Has he published any controversial journalism or anything? If it's only because of Saturday, it's a bit unfair. Whatever the book's defects as a novel, I think it's a pretty good exploration of what is obviously a complicated political issue.

Ismael Klata, Sunday, 25 November 2007 20:02 (twelve years ago) link

He wrote a fair few articles in the Guardian--search the archives at http://books.guardian.co.uk/ and you should turn it up. From memory it wasn't neo-con stuff, just the work of someone trying to get to grips with it all (much as in 'Saturday'). I may be misremembering, of course.

James Morrison, Sunday, 25 November 2007 22:56 (twelve years ago) link

two years pass...

I just read On Chesil Beach. I did enjoy it, except the ending. Was there some allusion to sexual abuse by Florence's father? The wikipedia entry for the book seems to think so.

Not the real Village People, Tuesday, 24 August 2010 20:59 (nine years ago) link

OCB is much better than Solar.

Gucci Mane hermeneuticist (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 25 August 2010 02:16 (nine years ago) link

I seem to have liked Solar more than most folk did. Not his best, perhaps, but a very enjoyable read.

frankiemachine, Wednesday, 25 August 2010 13:12 (nine years ago) link

Oh, it's quite enjoyable, but not very good ultimately. That Alaskan interlude was a distraction – symptomatic of the stop-start narrative.

Gucci Mane hermeneuticist (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 25 August 2010 13:15 (nine years ago) link

Saturday differs from his other books in the sense that there's a more subtle use of shock effects he used in earlier books. The tension is built really slow, where in other books it's so explicitly described it becomes a sort of trick (at least to me). On Chesil Beach is good too, but not as good as Saturday.

EvR, Thursday, 26 August 2010 07:52 (nine years ago) link

What I liked about Solar is that McEwan's own personality comes though in a way that it doesn't in (for example) the more fastidious, controlled, COB. And I found myself really warming to him. He has an acutely sensitive bullshit detector, but it hasn't turned him misanthropic and he doesn't place it in the service of any partisan loopiness. He's thoroughly sane and strives hard for objectivity without being coldly detached - in fact he has unusual empathy for a writer with such a fundamentally rational temperament. (This obviously jarred with some critics who seem to want characters with social views they don't like painted with fewer redeeming features and then beaten hard and beaten long.)

I'm not claiming this obviates the failures of structure and tone. I'd agree McEwan hasn't the lightness of touch (as yet, anyway) to bring off this kind of elaborately plotted comedy and intermittent farce. But maybe we nitpick too much about that sort of thing. I was entertained, I was made to think a bit more about some important stuff, I liked the author more by the end of the book than I did at the start. That's more than I've got out of dozens of "better" novels.

EvR there's some discussion of Saturday elsewhere on the site if you're interested in hunting it down.

frankiemachine, Thursday, 26 August 2010 09:13 (nine years ago) link

"I found myself really warming to him" & "coldly detached" are v. funny puns considering the scientific theme of Solar. well done.

parasitic mistletoe (m coleman), Thursday, 26 August 2010 10:28 (nine years ago) link

No pun intended, honestly.

frankiemachine, Thursday, 26 August 2010 10:33 (nine years ago) link

Ha, rereading that I'd just like to clarify that when I say "maybe we nitpick" I say "we" because I know I'm guilty of this kind of literary nitpicking myself. I hate the increasingly common use of "we" to mean something like "other people less clever than me". As in "we stupidly believe we can print money without any effect on inflation".

frankiemachine, Thursday, 26 August 2010 11:33 (nine years ago) link

two weeks pass...

I watched the film adaptation of Enduring Love for the first time in a while last night. I studied the book for AS Level English Lit and developed a bit of soft spot for it. So, exam question stylee; consider the role that food plays in the film. There's the picnic at the beginning, the meal at Bill Nighy's house while Joe recounts the balloon incident, Jed piling his plate and sucking on a watermelon after the scene at the swimming pool, Joe eating lunch with a colleague and then spotting Jed spying on him, Joe's birthday meal, and the picnic at the end. Obviously the picnic at the beginning is central to the plot, and I can't remember if there's that much mention of food in the rest of the novel to be honest, but it struck me as a conscious effort from the filmakers to cram in as many opportunities for the characters to eat as possible. Unless I'm overanalysing this and the characters were just hungry!

The referee was perfect (Chris), Tuesday, 14 September 2010 19:56 (nine years ago) link

two years pass...

so, Sweet Tooth?

nostormo, Friday, 5 October 2012 23:49 (seven years ago) link

A biiiiig disappointment, sadly. His worst since Amsterdam.

computers are the new "cool tool" (James Morrison), Saturday, 6 October 2012 09:15 (seven years ago) link

Wow, worse than Saturday? Really?

Matt DC, Saturday, 6 October 2012 12:49 (seven years ago) link

It took a lot to knock Solar off the worst list.

the ones that I'm near most: fellow outcasts and ilxors (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Saturday, 6 October 2012 12:53 (seven years ago) link

the reviewas are poitive, and it got the highest rate for a McEwan book on Goodreads.com

nostormo, Saturday, 6 October 2012 15:56 (seven years ago) link

It tries to do 2 very different things - spy novel and affectionate send-up of 1970s literary London - and fails at the first while not making much of the second. How someone who wrote 'The Innocent' could write such flaccid espionage stuff is quite surprising.

computers are the new "cool tool" (James Morrison), Sunday, 7 October 2012 07:08 (seven years ago) link

ten months pass...

Just finished Sweet Tooth, couldn't quite believe the ending even though SIGNPOSTING, bc he's kind of revisiting old ground, right?

kinder, Friday, 30 August 2013 17:43 (six years ago) link

it's pretty weak--worst mcewan in a while

What's worse is, he KNOWS the era/scene he's sort of satirising intimately, but doesn't do anywhere near as much with it as he could have

ornamental cabbage (James Morrison), Saturday, 31 August 2013 04:05 (six years ago) link

three years pass...

Poor guy, getting taken down.

thrill of transgressin (Eazy), Saturday, 3 September 2016 02:03 (three years ago) link

for his plotting i hope

le Histoire du Edgy Miley (difficult listening hour), Saturday, 3 September 2016 03:02 (three years ago) link


I hear from this arsehole again, he's going in the river (James Morrison), Saturday, 3 September 2016 03:36 (three years ago) link

Christopher Priest took him down a while ago on his blog, but surely that is not what is being referred to.

Under the Zing of Stan (James Redd and the Blecchs), Saturday, 3 September 2016 03:40 (three years ago) link

Two year old Chris Priest blog post for reference: http://www.christopher-priest.co.uk/journal/2438/let-the-notebook-be-the-judge/

Under the Zing of Stan (James Redd and the Blecchs), Saturday, 3 September 2016 04:29 (three years ago) link

Priest just today was demonstrating the feebleness of the latest Mieville

I hear from this arsehole again, he's going in the river (James Morrison), Saturday, 3 September 2016 07:06 (three years ago) link

I found SWEET TOOTH quite gripping!

McEwan has gone very HIGH CONCEPT, hasn't he? I mean especially with this latest NUTSHELL.


the pinefox, Saturday, 3 September 2016 07:59 (three years ago) link

Has he written anything good in the last decade?

Matt DC, Saturday, 3 September 2016 09:28 (three years ago) link

On Chesil Beach was good, i thought. And i enjoyed Solar, while not being blind to its flaws.

I hear from this arsehole again, he's going in the river (James Morrison), Saturday, 3 September 2016 11:50 (three years ago) link

OCB is my favorite, and I gave every novel a shot from Amsterdam onward and the '80s fiction too. I don't mind the contrivances so much as how the effort expended on their behalf contort the characters.

The burrito of ennui (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Saturday, 3 September 2016 11:59 (three years ago) link

two years pass...

Anyone read "Machines Like Me"? I have the impression it could be interesting.

je est un autre, l'enfer c'est les autres (alex in mainhattan), Wednesday, 14 August 2019 14:29 (eleven months ago) link

I read the short story it developed from, which was incredibly bad.

And according to some websites, there were “sexcapades.” (James Morrison), Thursday, 15 August 2019 00:21 (eleven months ago) link

mcewan got slammed by the spec fiction community for thinking he was doing something new when the book's sf elements were actually a rewrite of frankenstein.

adam the (abanana), Thursday, 15 August 2019 16:52 (eleven months ago) link

who cares about the sf community, i never really understood what was so interesting about science fiction. i think ian mcewan does write about something which is already there, artificial intelligence and sex robots exist. he just thinks a couple of years into the future. in the passage that i heard i had the feeling he managed quite well to put himself into the position of the machine, to think like a machine. this is a theme which will become incredibly important in the very near future. if you think about it, the smartphone is already the best friend of millions of people today.

je est un autre, l'enfer c'est les autres (alex in mainhattan), Thursday, 15 August 2019 19:40 (eleven months ago) link

As I said, read the short story. He does not successfully put himself into the position of anything other than a late middle-aged man who incorrectly thinks he's doing something new, and who is doing it very badly.

And according to some websites, there were “sexcapades.” (James Morrison), Friday, 16 August 2019 00:05 (eleven months ago) link

That's sort of what bugged me bout the end of Atonement, too. It's just the driest possible version of cheesy Twilight Zone/Philip K Dick twist ending, posing as [something something] postmodernism

Chuck_Tatum, Friday, 16 August 2019 00:57 (eleven months ago) link

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