Not my favourite McEwan – that is Atonement by a long way. This was OK, a more meditative book, full of long meandering passages from the head of Henry Perowne, a successful neurosurgeon living in Marylebone with his successful wife and talented blues-musician son, awaiting the return from France of his beautiful and talented and successful daughter. A man so ridiculously successful, in fact, that you just know something really bad is going to happen to him. He’s got a big metaphorical “KICK ME” sign taped to his back from page 1.
There was a lot of interesting stuff in here, lots of musing about life in London after 9/11 and before the war in Iraq, the uncertainty, the tension, the threats everywhere. I liked the way McEwan explored the interplay between the personal and the political. I liked the way that after a long, slow build-up, things moved very fast at the end.
What I didn’t like so much was that the entire novel was set in a single day and McEwan was utterly faithful to the tedium of the average person’s day, describing everything in equal detail, the mundane and the serious. When the mundane stuff was accompanied by thought-provoking musing on the nature of contemporary London life, it was fine. When it wasn’t, it was pretty unbearable. The long description of a game of squash was one of the most boring passages I have ever read (well, OK, skimmed).
The ending was great, though, and overall I would recommend this book – not whole-heartedly as I would with Atonement, but I’d recommend it nonetheless.