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Amsterdam: A Novel Paperback – November 2, 1999
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When good-time, fortysomething Molly Lane dies of an unspecified degenerative illness, her many friends and numerous lovers are led to think about their own mortality. Vernon Halliday, editor of the upmarket newspaper the Judge, persuades his old friend Clive Linley, a self-indulgent composer of some reputation, to enter into a euthanasia pact with him. Should either of them be stricken with such an illness, the other will bring about his death. From this point onward we are in little doubt as to Amsterdam's outcome--it's only a matter of who will kill whom. In the meantime, compromising photographs of Molly's most distinguished lover, foreign secretary Julian Garmony, have found their way into the hands of the press, and as rumors circulate he teeters on the edge of disgrace. However, this is McEwan, so it is no surprise to find that the rather unsavory Garmony comes out on top. Ian McEwan is master of the writer's craft, and while this is the sort of novel that wins prizes, his characters remain curiously soulless amidst the twists and turns of plot. --Lisa Jardine --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
As swift as a lethal bullet and as timely as current headlines, McEwan's Booker Prize-winning novel is a mordantly clever?but ultimately too clever for its own good?exploration of ethical issues. Two longtime friends meet at the cremation of the woman they shared, beautiful restaurant critic and photographer Molly Lane. Clive Linley, a celebrated composer, and Vernon Halliday, the editor of a financially troubled London tabloid, could never understand Molly's third liaison?with conservative Foreign Secretary Julian Garmony, who is angling to be prime minister, or her marriage to dour but rich publisher George Lane. Mourning the manner of Molly's agonizing death, which left her mad and helpless at the end, each man pledges to dispatch the other by euthanasia should he be similarly afflicted. Immediately afterwards, both Clive and Vernon are enmeshed in a crisis: Clive must finish his commissioned Millennium Symphony so it can premiere in Amsterdam, and Vernon must grapple with the moral issue of publishing photos of Julian Garmony in drag that George has discovered with Molly's effects. The clash between whether the demands of pure art are more valid than political accountability and financial solvency soon assumes a larger dimension that turns Clive and Vernon into bitter enemies and inspires each of them to seek revenge by the same means. McEwan spins these plot developments with smooth alacrity and with acidulous wit, especially focused on the way shallow and mediocre people can occupy positions of power and esteem: "In his profession, Vernon was revered as a nonentity." His ability to sculpt a scene with such arresting visual detail that it assumes a physical dimension for the reader (most memorably in the opening of Enduring Love but also evident here as Clive observes a woman being accosted by a rapist, and as Vernon watches a TV interview that signals the end of his career) are undiminished. But when, in the last third of the book, McEwan manipulates the plot to achieve a less than credible symmetry, it is obvious that, despite the Booker recognition, this is far from McEwan's best novel. That said, however, it will undoubtedly hit the bestseller charts, for McEwan, even when not quite at the top of his form, is a writer of compelling gifts. Major ad/promo; author tour.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
They each, separately, and over the next few weeks, ponder their own mortality, as sometimes happens when a friend one's age has died. And they each feared the kind of loss of faculties that Molly had suffered, rendering her virtually a prisoner to her possessive husband George, at a time when she had no control over her own life.
Clive is a renowned composer, while Vernon is the editor of a newspaper that has seen better days. Julian is a politician with a secret...one which someone will use as leverage against him.
None of these men can overlook their fragility at this time in their lives, and their fears and insecurities will lead them to take drastic actions with tragic consequences.
How will Vernon strive to save his position at the newspaper, and what will he risk? What will Clive do to exceed his previous efforts with his latest creation? And what surprising turn of events will unite George and Julian, as they converge on Amsterdam to retrieve two surprising passengers?
In the beginning, Amsterdam: A Novel, did not grab me, but then as Clive and Vernon started plotting, I found the pages turning rapidly; I then engaged with the characters, their vulnerabilities, as well as the streak of evil that turned them toward revenge. It was easy to see how the pivotal moments after Molly's death transformed them toward their darker sides. At the end, the intriguing plot twists had me shaking my head in dismay. I enjoyed this one overall, but offer four stars.
These themes are cleanly entwined in the plot as Clive and Vernon mourn the death of Molly.
Clive and Vernon each have a past with Molly, but remain longtime friends who lean on each other in their time of grief.
They also share a strong dislike toward Molly's politician paramour, Julian, as well as her husband, George. They don't understand her choice of Julian or George, as they consider both to be bland in personality and looks. These feelings are acerbated because Julian is shown to be a bit of a political snake, and George keeps his free spirit wife confined and away from her friends as her illness progresses.
Clive and Vernon ask each other for an important favor, the kind you only ask a dear and lifelong friend.
Some time later, they each face a moral dilemma. Being as close as they are, they each confide in each other regarding the moral dilemma. They each are able to reason that they themselves only did what they had to in their own dilemma, but harshly judge the other's actions.
This is where the true irony comes into the story.
Like all of McEwan's writing, Amsterdam says quite a bit in a few words. There are some lessons without being preachy on 'judge not lest ye be judged.' It is very tongue in cheek, like the very best of Ian McEwan.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Story: had to read it for a class so we delved pretty deep into the characters and plot.Read more