bonnie’s #CBR5 Review #61: Saturday by Ian McEwan

Of Ian McEwan’s works, Saturday is my very favorite. I don’t find the lead character terribly sympathetic, but the writing is gorgeous. one of the best in the life-in-a-day kinds of novels.

The novel takes place over the course of a day in February 2003. On this particular Saturday, riots in downtown London occurred, protesting British involvement in the United States’ military invasion of the Middle East. Henry Perowne, an affluent neurosurgeon, is the protagonist of the story. He wants nothing more than to play his squash game, visit his mother, and prepare his legendary fish stew for the big family gathering that evening. But life, as we all know, has other plans. A plane streaking through the evening sky seems to be on fire and reminds him of the planes that hit the Twin Towers on 9/11. The sort of violence that terrorism incurs is further perpetuated in a traffic sideswipe that escalates later in the afternoon when Henry butts heads with Baxter, a petty criminal.

Our actions can sometimes have grave repercussions, as Henry finds out. This novel is about terror, violence, grief, loss, and the sort of privilege that can blind us to the hardships and unfortunate circumstances of others. Most everyone who’s read McEwan cites Atonement as their favorite, but this one is mine. The ties to Mrs. Dalloway are intriguing, and make it an eloquent and moving read.

You can also read this review on my personal blog, The Universe Disturbed.

The Mama’s #CBR5 Review #55: On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan

chesilbeachWe come in to On Chesil Beach during Florence and Edward’s honeymoon dinner. It is the first time they are truly alone together, dining in a hotel room, with the bed looming large in the other room. They’re both virgins, and while Edward is eagerly anticipating consummating the marriage, Florence is more reluctant. In fact, Florence is horrified by what is expected of her, and although she wants to fulfill what she considers her marital duties – and in fact there are even moments when the reader thinks Florence may be feeling the beginning stirrings of desire – she doesn’t think she can. Things come to a head in one pivotal, brutally uncomfortable scene. Florence flees to the beach, Edward follows her, and they fall into the age-old trap of lashing out to protect themselves.

I have to admit that this was not an easy read. It was short, and spare, but it was difficult to get through. I felt like a voyeur, like I was suddenly privy to some very private, very intimate situation. I don’t know as I’ve ever felt as uncomfortable reading a book as I did when I was reading this. Florence’s apprehension was palpable. I dreaded what lay ahead for her. And I felt equally bad for Edward. His excitement and nervousness rang very true, and I knew that things were going to end disastrously, but I couldn’t look away.

Read more here…

Rachie3879’s #CBR5 Review #9: Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan

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My review of Ian McEwan’s Sweet Tooth should come with a disclaimer: McEwan is one of my favorite modern writers. When I read Atonement, the story stuck with me for days after I finished it. I also really liked Enduring Love. Something about the way he writes just really appeals to me so I’m not an objective reader here.

Sweet Tooth tells the story of Serena Frome (rhymes with plume) and her transition from dutiful daughter of an Anglican bishop to spy for MI-5 – who are hoping to help foment national pride and anti-Communist sentiment through the clandestine funding of seemingly right-leaning authors. This is England in 1972 – the Cold War isn’t over, the IRA is just getting warmed up, and the British economy is suffering. Serena’s affair with an older man she meets while studying Mathematics at Cambridge leads her to a low-level job with MI-5. Her love of reading and her connection to the Cambridge lover draw attention to her and soon she is tasked with introducing herself to Tom Haley, a new writer with a few published short stories and journalistic articles teaching at the University of Sussex.

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bonnie’s #CBR5 Review #23: The Daydreamer by Ian McEwan

As an emerging twentieth and twenty-first century scholar, it feels pretty good to say I’ve “conquered” the McEwan canon (except the plays and screenplays, but my area is novels, anyway) now, with the reading of The Daydreamer. I was dubious about McEwan’s ability to craft a tale–in his voice–that would be remotely appropriate for children, but I am pleasantly surprised to report that he overcame all my doubts.

Peter Fortune is a ten-year-old boy with a vivid imagination, one that often isolates him from the world outside but gives him a rich interior life full of wild daydreams. The book is a series of short adventures, with Peter becoming a doll and having to fight off a Bad Doll (reminiscient of Toy Story), switching bodies with his cat, and staring down a bully by making believe that said bully transforms into a monster to scare other children. Peter is an intuitive character who grows up in the novel without the nauseating Learning Lessons didacticism present in so many children’s stories.

McEwan’s “children’s voice” is one I’d best describe as Neil Gaiman meets C.S. Lewis (and that’s a compliment, in my books!). I honestly enjoyed The Daydreamer quite a bit (though I’d recommend for slightly older or highly imaginative, well-read children), and I wish that Ian McEwan would write more novels for children.

You can also read this review on my personal blog, The Universe Disturbed.

bonnie’s #CBR5 Review #22: First Love, Last Rites by Ian McEwan

I’m down to my last two McEwan books, and it’s been interesting reading his works in reverse. First Love, Last Rites is his first collection of short stories and it certainly bears his trademark gothic-ness prevalent in his earliest works.

In this collection, we see a brother experimenting with sex (and unfortunately involving his younger sister, which…no), a deformed young man who has been infantilized by his mother, and a teen boy who is encouraged to wear disguises by his guardian (mother?) while trying to navigate a first love. Here, coming-of-age and the sourness of love gone wrong are the most prominent themes in the book.

I can tell that this is a “first effort,” but it’s interesting…I’m definitely glad that Ian McEwan has moved away from the Gothic into less creepy descriptions, scenarios, and endeavors.

You can also read this review on my personal blog, The Universe Disturbed.

bonnie’s #CBR5 Review #21: The Comfort of Strangers by Ian McEwan

Early Ian McEwan is the master of creepy fiction. So it’s no surprise that The Comfort of Strangers is disturbing in its seeming ordinariness, chilling in its foreshadowing, and frightening for the way strangers interact in such familiar ways.

Colin and Mary are lovers on vacation. They run into familiar patterns: sleep, make love, eat, walk, repeat. Yet, their routine falls apart when, one evening, while searching for something to eat, they encounter a too-friendly stranger named Robert. He insists on taking them to his restaurant, and then becomes entangled in their lives so that they cannot escape.

McEwan has tackled human nature in all its incarnations, from best to worst. By the time you make it to the end of the novel, “worst” certainly comes to the fore. I’d certainly recommend reading this…but be warned.

You can also read this review on my personal blog, The Universe Disturbed.

bonnie’s #CBR5 Review #18: In Between the Sheets by Ian McEwan

I’ve been working my way through the Ian McEwan canon, and this is one of two collections of short stories that falls in the early half of McEwan’s works.

Gah. Early McEwan is soooo bleak sometimes. And grotesque. This collection seems to focus on love/sex/relationships, but nothing is ever as it seems. I mean, we can all say, “Blah blah isn’t that the way it always is,” but really. It’s a MIND GAME. And I fell into a reader’s trap more than once. There is a story about a two-timing porn shop employee who gets his just deserts. A story about a monkey in a relationship with his owner (no, really), a story about a father whose teenager daughter’s sexuality confronts his own naivete (and don’t worry, THEY don’t get weird), and others that I’m having difficulty remembering (note to self: finish CBR Review immediately after, and don’t wait a week to review).

I’ve concluded that I greatly prefer McEwan as a novelist to his short story-work. And, as evidenced by the overwhelming novel-to-short story ratio, McEwan seems to have arrived at a similar conclusion. I will, however, read the other collection, First Love, Last Rites. It’s all about the bragging rights, kids.

You can also read this review on my personal blog, The Universe Disturbed.

bonnie’s #CBR5 Review #16: The Child in Time by Ian McEwan

Ian McEwan is my favorite living author. So, while I try to be objective when reading him, I mostly just succumb to a giddy joy that comes when I read him (though that was not the case with The Cement Garden. Gah). I’ve been disappointed that his works haven’t seemed to align with my doctoral research, because that would have meant I could have written about him–but finally I found a book that just might go on my reading list.

The Child in Time takes place in the late 1980s, two years after Stephen Lewis’s three-year-old daughter disappears in a supermarket. In the intervening time, her absence consumes Stephen, a children’s book author, his relationships with others, and his marriage. Throughout the novel, we witness Stephen trying to come to terms with his identity, while reconciling his parents’ past, and the idea of eternity, childhood, and time itself, all while serving time on a government committee that will ultimately publish a handbook on childcare and raising in the UK (the references to Margaret Thatcher are deliciously sly, and the PM even makes a cameo–though whether it is Thatcher herself is less clear).

If you are a McEwan fan, you should definitely read this. There is a passage in the final chapter that speaks so eloquently about grief that it brought tears to my eyes. While I wasn’t a huge fan of the ending (the way it came about, at least), I did find the writing often very poignant in a way that I haven’t seen in some of McEwan’s other works. Overall, it is an odd, deeply moving book that left me sated and wanting to read more.

You can also read this review on my personal blog, The Universe Disturbed.

Sophia’s #CBRV Review #3: Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan

“My name is SerenSweet Tootha Frome (rhymes with plume) and almost forty years ago I was sent on a secret mission for the British Security Service. I didn’t return safely. Within eighteen months of joining I was sacked, having disgraced myself and ruined my lover, though he certainly had a hand in his own undoing.”

A very promising author with a very promising first sentence, I have been looking forward to reading Sweet Tooth (2012) by Ian McEwan since I first saw it. I’ve read some of McEwan’s other works and always been impressed with his realism, characterization, attention to detail, and use of language. Now that I’ve read Sweet Tooth, I’m certainly impressed, although I don’t think I can recommend it without some reservations.

Read the rest of my review here.