Tuesday, December 18, 2007


Amsterdam by Ian McEwan
Read: 12-13-07
Librarything tags: TWN Novels, Character, Euthanasia

I decided to start putting the dates I began and finished a book in these posts, since I often don't write about it right away, or in any order. That may not matter to you, but it can give you an idea how well I remember the book I'm writing about, and a rough idea of how much I enjoyed it or how easy of a read it was by how long it took me. This one only took a day, as you can see by the lack of two dates. I added the tags because they're one of my favorite parts of librarything. Click on any of them and it'll show you which other books I've added to librarything with the same tag, if any. "TWN" stands for The Weekend Novelist, so "TWN Novels" are books The Weekend Novelist recommended. They tend to be prize winners, or at least bestsellers. They also tend to be the only modern non-genre books I read!

Amsterdam begins at a funeral. It's told from the perspective of two of the dead woman's former lovers, who are friends with each other. She had a disease which took away her faculties before she died, and they commiserate about what a horrible way it is to go, and how she would have wanted to die before she reached such a low state, in her controlling husband's clutches. Then it goes on, telling the friends' story, the composer and the newspaper editor.

As a whole, I think I enjoyed Amsterdam more than any other TWN books thus far. Often they're just not very... hopeful books. They have some hope, but nothing like what you generally find at the end of a good fantasy. This one, in some ways, was the same, but it had a point. Towards the beginning I was afraid I was going to hate it and the author, but it all depended on where he took it, and he took it to a satisfactory place. This is one of those books where it all hangs on the ending. Which also means that I can only tell you so much, or I could give the ending away. I'll just say that at first it looked like his morality and worldview were too different from mine for me to even begin to discuss the book, but as it turned out, I'm not certain of his worldview, except that there's a point where he draws the line and says, "This is evil (and extremely stupid)." He does a good job of portraying self-deception, too. Even when the characters are deceiving themselves you can be a bit sympathetic, because you can see yourself in them. Which makes it all the more horrifying. Very well done.

Here's a quote that made me laugh (at the end -- the rest is setup), and which turns out to be important, too.

“He had a number of friends who played the genius card when it suited, failing to show up for this or that in the belief that whatever local upset it caused, it could only increase respect for the compelling nature of their high calling. These types—novelists were by far the worst—managed to convince friends and families that not only their working hours but every nap and stroll, every fit of silence, depression, or drunkenness, bore the exculpatory ticket of high intent. A mask for mediocrity, was Clive’s view. He didn’t doubt that the calling was high, but bad behavior was not a part of it. Perhaps every century there was an exception or two to be made. Beethoven, yes; Dylan Thomas, most certainly not.

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