Review: Amsterdam by Ian McEwan

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I read this one awhile back during Read-o-Rama, but I’m finally getting around to reviewing it now. As a rule, Ian McEwan is one of my absolute favorite authors. I love his stories about regular people dealing with sometimes extraordinary circumstances and who generally make very poor decisions when faced with these circumstances. His understated yet beautiful prose makes almost all of his books haunting. Amsterdam is no exception.

As per usual, McEwan takes ordinary people with their insecurities, their grievances, and their secrets, and places them in a story that shows the extremes of what can happen when we fail to communicate and fail to participate in humanity. Clive and Vernon are friends, who’ve both loved the same woman and have all the baggage that comes with a long friendship. As they both make choices, mostly poor ones, and disengage from
those around them, their worlds fall apart, and it’s all told in devastatingly beautiful prose.

There are two twists near the end, that even better highlight what I will term normal depravity. Essentially, this means that McEwan shows people making extremely selfish choices at their absolute worst that gravely impact the lives of others in order to make their own lives more comfortable.  There are many such occurrences throughout the book as well. The only kind of minor criticism I have of this one is that it was difficult for me to connect with the characters. However, that’s my own hang up, and unsurprising given that both major characters were men old enough to be my father, and at times, seemed like petty schoolchildren. Overall, though, if you love gorgeous, simple writing, and like to unmask the terrible people beneath normal folks, you can’t pass this one up.

Recommend: Yes, for Ian McEwan fans, literary fiction fans, fans of Atonement (also by McEwan)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

More Information: Goodreads, Amazon, Author Website

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