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Sweet Tooth: A Novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, November 13, 2012
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"By Gaslight" by Steven Price
Explore this featured title in historical thrillers. Learn more
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Amazon Best Books of the Month, November 2012: One of McEwan's finest female characters, Serena Frome--"rhymes with plume," the author tells us in the opening line--is both clever and beautiful, a speed-reading lit geek and a math whiz, a 1970s version of the Harvard MBA types who launch life-changing Internet startups. But in the dark and troubled Cold War days in London, there were few options for bright young women. So when a mysterious lover recruits her for the British intelligence service, MI5, Serena throws herself body and soul into an undercover operation code-named Sweet Tooth. What unfolds is a mystery, a romance, and a dazzling display of literary workmanship. Though the action slows to a crawl at times, McEwan is a brilliant and entertaining storyteller whose lines--sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, sometimes wickedly wise--had me reaching for my highlighter. --Neal Thompson
*Starred Review* McEwan’s attentive audience can never anticipate what his next novel will be about, but because his fans know that any McEwan book will offer a wildly creative plot carried by complex characters and an elegant yet ironically muted writing style, they are willing, whenever a new novel appears, to go with the author wherever—historically and psychologically—he leads. This time that place is the spy world of British intelligence in the early 1970s. (Remember, although WWII is over, the Cold War is definitely not.) With grace, assurance, and credibility, McEwan assumes a female persona in this first-person remembrance, narrated from the vantage of 40 years later. Serena Frome is a smart, attractive, Cambridge-educated young woman who is recruited by her older lover for the MI5 intelligence agency. She is slotted into a secret program called “Sweet Tooth,” designed to cultivate writers likely to produce novels ideologically in tune with the government. Spydom is, of course, fraught with betrayal, and Serena is not immune to that common pitfall. McEwan readers can rest assured that, in common with its predecessors, this novel has a greatly compelling story line braced by the author’s formidable wisdom about—well, the world. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Promotion strategies listed for McEwan’s new book are expectedly wide-ranging, including, of course, national media appearances for him. --Brad Hooper
Top Customer Reviews
Serena, as complex a character as any of Henry James` women characters, is forced by her mother to study math at Cambridge while her real love is literature, specifically fiction. "My mother told me she would never forgive me and she would never forgive herself if I went off to read English and became no more than a slightly better housewife than she was." She also is quite adept at getting into relationships that have no future although she soldiers on in her story that is set right in the middle of British politics in the early 1970's. (Serena votes for Wilson for prime minister.Read more ›
On the surface, the plot seems to belie this strategy. Set in the 1970s, its first-person narrator is a young woman who, after graduating from Cambridge with a degree in mathematics, is recruited by MI5. Although women are usually handed MI5's lowliest tasks, Serena is given a break: she is assigned to an operation called Sweet Tooth, which provides covert funds to authors who have an established anti-communist bias. As such, Serena recruits Tom Haley, a budding young writer with whom she soon begins an affair.Read more ›
He doesn't truly grasp the context, yet soon after, he pens a story, donating her definition of probability to his key character. "At one level, it was obvious enough how these separate parts were tipped in and deployed. The mystery was in how they were blended into something cohesive and plausible, how the ingredients were cooked into something so delicious," Serena reflects.
Sweet Tooth is a reader's book and a writer's book. At its heart is invention; the logic that defines the outer world is sublimated into the author's vision of that world. It works beautifully and is, in my opinion, perhaps the most satisfying book that Ian McEwan has ever written. With masterpieces to his credit like Enduring Love, Saturday, Atonement, Amsterdam and others, that says a whole lot.
The plot incorporates elements of a classic spy story. Serena Frome is a beautiful and brilliant Cambridge student who is recruited to join the British M15 in the early 1970s during a jittery time in the country's history. Her special mission is to infiltrate the literary circle of an up-and-coming writer and essayist, Tom Healy in a psych-ops mission. To say much more would be to spoil the pleasure of discovery.
Suffice to say this: along the way, Mr. McEwan treats us to stories within stories. All of these dazzling stories carry within them the seeds of a future novel. Each is a polished little gem.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Sorry, McEwan - I've read enough of your stuff lately to recognize when one of your books is going to bore me to tears, so I'm stopping about halfway through before wasting any... Read morePublished 1 month ago by K.C. May
I enjoyed seeing 1972 through a British spy's eye, as I remembered my version of the same timeframe in America.Published 2 months ago by Kathleen Herman
I liked it. It is a little slow starting but now I think the author does that for good reason. It builds steadily and has a terrific ending.Published 2 months ago by Jd Smythe
McEwen is a master trickster. The novel you think you are reading turns out to be another one written by a character. Both are great. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Jan Wojcik
This book wasn't for me. Kept waiting for something to happen and it never did.Published 2 months ago by cath brown
An ornately presented tale of Serena Frome’s two short honest love affairs, and her extended duplicitous relationship that occupies most of the novel. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Dennis Zeunert