Love and espionage in 1970s Britain- a riveting new novel from the bestselling author of Atonement and Enduring Love
Ian McEwan is the author of two collections of stories and twelve previous novels, including Enduring Love, Amsterdam, for which he won the Booker Prize in 1998, Atonement and, most recently, Solar.
McEwan goes for laughs in this cold war spoof in which Serena Frome, one time math whiz, struggles through Cambridge and graduates in 1972 with an embarrassing third. For reasons never satisfactorily explained, a professor and former MI5 operative recruits her as a spy. Serena's soon in love, not for the last time in the story, no matter that he's 54, long married and sickly, or that she's 21, gorgeous, and in a relationship. She's a voracious reader, and her familiarity with contemporary fiction earns her an assignment to persuade a writer with anti-Soviet leanings to abandon academia and write full-time, supported by funding whose source he can never know. Espionage fans won't find much that's credible, and fans of political farce might be surprised by a narrative less focused on lampooning MI5 than on mocking (mostly female) readers. Given the nonstop wisecracks, the book might be most satisfying if read as sheer camp. A twist confirms that the misogyny isn't to be taken seriously, but Serena's intellectual inferiority is a joke that takes too long to reach its punch line. McEwan devotees may hope that in his next novel he returns to characterizations deeper than the paper they're printed on. Agent: The Georges Borchardt Literary Agency. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
How easily we are fooled, and how easily we fool ourselves. That's the sense we get when reading this latest from Booker Prize winner McEwan (Solar), set in the Cold War 1970s. Rather gorgeous Serena Frome ("rhymes with plume") attends Cambridge to study mathematics, though she'd rather be reading, because she's persuaded that women must prove themselves adept with numbers. She scrapes by with a third, meanwhile having an affair with a married history professor who secretly grooms her for the intelligence service and then dumps her. Drafted by MI5, she's on the lowest rung when she's asked to participate in a mission, codenamed Sweet Tooth, aimed at secretly funding writers whose views align with the government. Serena's target is Tom Haley, with whom she foolishly falls in love. Then he writes the grimmest, darkest postapocalyptic novel imaginable. VERDICT The writing is creamy smooth, the ultimate trap-within-a-trap pure gold, and the whole absolutely engrossing, but poor Serena. She's such a doof, and she's a bit condensed too (by both characters and author), which leaves a bitter taste no matter how good the novel. [See Prepub Alert, 5/4/12.]-Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
"Enthralling, beguiling and totally addictive from the first page to the last... McEwan's sense of time and place is authentic with his trademark attention to details of the social history of the period" Bristol Magazine "A brilliant portrayal of 1970s Britain at its absolute worst... But it's also a gripping spy novel with some characteristic McEwan twists toward the end" Mail on Sunday "No contemporary novelist is more enthralled by what goes on inside the human skull than Ian McEwan... Doubling back and forth across genre boundaries, Sweet Tooth takes risks...this acute, witty novel is a winningly cunning addition to McEwan's fictional surveys of intelligence." -- Peter Kemp Sunday Times "Playful, comic... This is a great big Russian doll of a novel, and in its construction - deft, tight, exhilaratingly immaculate - is a huge part of its pleasure." -- Julie Myerson Observer "A thoroughly clever novel...a sublime novel about novels, about writing them and reading them and the spying that goes on in doing both...very impressive...rich and enjoyable." -- Lucy Kellaway Financial Times