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Amsterdam: A Novel Paperback – November 2, 1999
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"Killers of the Flower Moon" is a twisting, haunting true-life murder mystery about one of the most monstrous crimes in American history. See more
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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
Who knows why it won the Booker Prize? Surely The Comfort of Strangers or The Innocent deserved it more. Other reviewers have suggested variously that the committee felt guilty about ignoring McEwan's previous work, or because the book featured an interplay between theme and character brilliant enough to justify the award. I interpret that to mean that the judges thought it clever that the novel's characters were shallow, and that the newspaper Vernon Halliday edited was shallow, and that the symphony Clive Linley wrote was derivative and fatally unvaried, and that ultimately the book itself was shallow, too, and so decided Amsterdam was a brilliantly self-referential piece of---I don't know, meta-fiction or something.
Maybe so, but some of the social commentary in the book reads like a magazine article rather than a novel, like a 2,000-word piece in a weekend supplement, and I expect more from McEwan: strong characters and images and themes that resonate in your head like a fascinating bad dream.
Amsterdam is light entertainment, a finely written but forgettable tale by a brilliant author who's capable of producing much, much better work.
There they meet George Lane, Molly's husband and another former lover Julian Garmony, the Foreign Secretary, who's despised by Molly's former lovers.
The novel traces the lives of the four men after Molly's funeral when they all face pinnacle moments in both their private and professional lives.
Amsterdam is a book without heroes. The characters fail to grab your sympathy, but this adds to the reader's curiosity as you try to unravel their true worth and nature. It's not a book about how the strong and ruthless survive but rather how obsession with work can turn into self-obsession and ultimately destruction as the books characters take personal desire over public responsibility.
The book's 196 pages make it more of a novella than a novel and some would argue that more time should have been given over to plot and character development. However an expansion of the books length could have faltered the quick tempo, that McEwan's rich language lends to the book, and the vagueness of the characters leads us to question rather than condemn them at the end, allowing for the books effect to linger long after the final page has been read.
This books quality has been questioned in comparison to other Booker winners but Amsterdam, a book so rich in dramatic irony should be judged on its own merits. This socio-political satire manages to examine such a thorny issue as human morality in a humorous and entertaining fashion and is a recommended read.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Story: had to read it for a class so we delved pretty deep into the characters and plot.Read more