Day 675: Amsterdam

Cover for AmsterdamThe Booker Prize people liked Amsterdam a bit more than I did. Although the shattering last page of McEwan’s Atonement absolutely upended that novel, the same technique did not work as well for this one. Perhaps the problem lies with my having seen McEwan do this several times already.

The novel begins with the death of Molly Lane. Two old friends, both former lovers of Molly, meet at the funeral. Clive Linley is a world-famous composer, and Vernon Halliday is an editor trying to save a floundering newspaper. At the funeral is another of Molly’s former lovers, foreign secretary Julian Garmony, a right-wing bigot whom both men dislike. They all pay stiff respects to Molly’s possessive husband George.

The brush with mortality makes both Clive and Vernon a tad hypochondriac, and they end up exchanging a pledge. But various stresses will soon interfere with their friendship. Clive is struggling to complete what he thinks will be his masterpiece in time for a performance in Amsterdam. And George has offered to sell Vernon some compromising photos of Julian that he found in Molly’s papers. Vernon has to decide whether publication of these photos will result in increased sales or backlash.

This novel is darkly humorous. None of these men is a sterling individual. In fact, they are all morally bankrupt. Clive seems the least at fault for quite some time, but then he does something unforgivable and justifies it as being for his art.

It’s difficult to explain my main criticism without revealing the ending. I can only say that the implications of the final page do not make sense, that there is no way that the character could have known how things would work out. So, I do not think the surprise ending works as well in this case as in other McEwan novels.

Related Posts

Sweet Tooth

The Sense of an Ending

The Child in Time

13 thoughts on “Day 675: Amsterdam

  1. Naomi March 19, 2015 / 1:40 pm

    I started this book a while ago, but didn’t continue. I don’t really remember why, but I do know that his books are hit and miss with me. Atonement was good, but Saturday bored me. I also liked On Chesil Beach – I was able to give that one a try knowing that it was short if it turned out I didn’t like it.

    • whatmeread March 19, 2015 / 1:43 pm

      I definitely didn’t like this one as well as some others. So far, I like Atonement the best. Sweet Tooth was pretty good, but he really likes those twisty endings! I have read both Saturday and On Chesil Beach, but I must have read them awhile back, because I see I don’t have their reviews on my site. I remember On Chesil Beach very well, but not Saturday.

      • Naomi March 19, 2015 / 7:40 pm

        I’ll have to check out Sweet Tooth. I haven’t read that one. Also, his newest sounds pretty good.

  2. Cathy746books March 20, 2015 / 4:55 am

    It’s strange. I like McEwan and I read Amsterdam but I can’t remember a thing about it. Even reading your review didn’t bring much back. I’m assuming that means I didn’t really enjoy it!

    • whatmeread March 20, 2015 / 4:43 pm

      Maybe not. It wasn’t as good as some of them. I have my ups and downs with him.

  3. Cecilia March 22, 2015 / 7:29 pm

    I have yet to read McEwan! I think I will start with Atonement; it’s been sitting on my shelf for a few years now.

    • Carolyn O March 23, 2015 / 12:25 am

      Atonement is A-mazing. My favorite McEwan, far and away.

  4. Carolyn O March 23, 2015 / 12:24 am

    I picked this up at the same bookstore where I found The Kingfisher–maybe I’ll keep it on the shelf a little longer. Thanks for the review!

    • whatmeread March 23, 2015 / 7:36 am

      Well, maybe you’ll like it more than I did.

  5. Camilla April 7, 2015 / 11:23 am

    I’ve never read this book, but I’ve already read Sweet Tooth that I liked! 😉

    • whatmeread April 7, 2015 / 11:24 am

      Yes, I think I liked Sweet Tooth better than this one. My favorite is Atonement.

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