Oops, broke my resolve and bought this latest slim tome at the airport, dropping my boy back off on his return ‘home’ (agh, dagger to heart) to university life – it’s always a very dangerous thing to buy even a stick of chewing gum in such circumstances, as the temptation to purchase a consolatory new book is really all too impossible to resist…
Have just put this novel down and feel numbed.
Ian McEwan’s books have been a bit ‘hit and miss’ for me over the years – sometimes I am blown away (“Atonement”, “Enduring Love”, for example), other times I have felt short-changed (“On Chesil Beach”, “The Cement Garden”), and in fact I still have “Solar” and “Sweet Tooth” sitting patiently waiting to be opened.
Agree wholeheartedly with the Evening Standard that this is “Classic McEwan…It’s a pleasure from start to finish, one not to be interrupted”. Read almost uninterruptedly from cover to cover over the weekend, and was 100% gripped from page 1 to page 213. I don’t agree with any of the occasional negative reviews briefly perused after finishing the book, and didn’t find it cold, clinical or unconvincing. This may be in part because I was not expecting the personal background of our almost narrator to strike such a chord in me. Her current situation forms part and parcel of the main thrust of the tale about a young Jehovah’s Witness’s desire to refuse a blood transfusion that could save his life, and High Court Judge Fiona’s decision-taking and reactions to meeting him cannot be dislocated from her husband’s unexpected declarations as the book opens.
I enjoyed McEwan’s recounting of the many examples in today’s society, where the law is called upon to define the guidelines for so many issues concerning children in this generation, but above all I couldn’t help but admire his careful description of a very middle-aged (is 60 still middle-aged? I like to think so) woman in crisis :
“While his back was turned to her she had a cold premonition of rejection, of the humiliation of being left for a younger woman, of being left behind, useless and alone…Self-pity in others embarrassed her, and she wouldn’t have it now. She was having a third drink instead”.
“She slid open his wardrobe and with a wifely eye calculated that he had taken three jackets…he must have taken great care going along the hall without her hearing, and closed the front door inch by deceitful inch”.
This male author bravely contemplates every woman’s worst nightmarish yet very pragmatic fears:
“Then there was age…His white chest hair, of which he remained proud…shanks less muscular…the eyes holding a gentle hint of future vacancy…So what then of her ankles thickening in coquettish reply, her backside swelling like summer cumulus, her waist waxing stout as her gums receded?”.
As one who has had first hand experience of tumbling into such painful territory, don’t believe he hits a single discordant note. I have put this work down, and Ian McEwan is restored as a Top Author in my humble book. He has portrayed an intelligent woman doing a difficult job and manoeuvering her way through life as best she can in a way I found compelling, credible and admirable. Many of the issues he raises are going to stay with me for a very long time. So that makes this read :
A FAVOURITE BOOK – rating 10/10