Amsterdam by Ian McEwan

The only thing worse than a Manic Pixie Dream Girl is a Manic Pixie Dream girl created by Ian McEwan.

Having only read two of his novels so far (this one and Atonement), I obviously can’t speak for his entire body of work, but at the moment I am astonished at McEwan’s ability to make all female love interests in his stories utterly unappealing. First Cecilia Tallis, now Molly Lane. They are the worst.

At least Molly, for all intents and purposes, does not actually matter in the grand scope of this book. When it starts she’s already dead, and her husband and numerous former lovers (the three main ones are a politician, a newspaper editor, and a composer) are gathered at her funeral. The men reminisce about Molly and will continue to do so at random throughout the story, but she is never a real presence in the book – I got the sense that none of these men actually knew her, so the reader doesn’t get to either.

Anyway, the shit hits the fan when Molly’s husband goes through her stuff and finds some very compromising photos of the previously-mentioned politician, taken by Molly. The husband wants to sell the photos to the newspaper editor, the editor talks it over with the composer, the politician freaks out…blah blah blah.

I had two big problems with this book, and I will try to describe them as best I can.

1. I didn’t like anyone in this story. Molly wasn’t even a person, so she’s out, and the two central characters (the composer and the editor) seemed to be competing for the prize of Most Horrible Human Being Ever. It was a tight race, to be sure, but in the end I was forced to give the award to the composer, who witnesses a woman being attacked and walks away from it. Sir, Detectives Stabler and Benson of the Special Victims Unit would like to have a few words with you, and none of them are polite.

2. I still don’t know what McEwan was trying to do with this book. Is is supposed to be a nostalgic love story? A political story? A twisted morality tale? At the end, which I guess is supposed to be a very emotionally gripping and powerful scene, just left me confused and annoyed because after all that trouble, I had very little idea of what the whole thing was supposed to be about. What, exactly, was the point? Throughout the book, I felt very little, and by the time it ended, I was just happy that it was over.

Verdict: one out of five stars

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