Thoughts amsterdambyim by Ian McEwan, Anchor 1999 (orig 1998), 193 pages

My “Pick” Review on Litsy offered THREE points:

  1. I love how Ian McEwan strings words together. I fall into his books like fluffy pillows and fleece blankets by a fire.
  2. The women in this book  are minor characters yet they seem to hold all the power. (I still need to think about this. Still thinking… a few days later.)
  3. The descriptions of the music were captivating.

What the Washington Post said:

A sharp contemporary morality tale, cleverly disguised as a comic novel, Amsterdam is “as sheerly enjoyable a book as one is likely to pick up this year.”

What’s it ABOUTWARNING! I am going to tell a lot more about the plot than I usually do. I always feel like I’m spoilering so read on at your own risk. Two friends, ex-lovers of an extraordinary woman named Molly, meet up at her funeral. Clive is a composer who is not ‘attached’ and Vernon is a newspaper editor; they eventually make a pact that in the event IF one ever becomes seriously ill and incapacitated, the other agrees to assist in facilitating a dignified end-of-life situation, something they don’t believe their friend Molly was accorded. Clive is busy and stressed with writing a grand symphony for the year 2000 and Vernon is desperately trying to save his newspaper – circulation is falling and they need a scoop. Well, Clive arrives at a cross-roads literally while hiking to free his mind up for inspiration and Vernon is given his juicy tabloid fodder opportunity — photos of a high-level politician who was also a lover of Molly. HOWEVER, things happen, plots are plotted, disagreements are both blown out of proportion or thoughtlessly disregarded depending on the viewpoint and it all becomes a major clusterfuck for almost everyone involved.

What’s good?  No one could complain that nothing happens in this book. For a slim book, it has a ton of pivotal bit characters and interesting events. I love IMcE’s writing. I just will follow wherever his sentences lead me.

What’s NOT so good: Well, it was almost too neatly wrapped up and not really all that convincing even as I keep contemplating what happened! How could all these momentous things happen and yet not one really gets the importance? And all the conniving and clever and circumstantial happenings seem oh so convenient. Seriously, some of these steps could have slipped this way or that and a whole ‘nother story would have had to have been chased down. I might need to go back and reread – I don’t think I recall the WHYs. Why did Clive decide to ___ and also Vernon decide to carry out ____?! Were they that cruel? Yep, almost a bit TOO convenient. I am starting not to buy it as I keep going over and over it…

And then the cover art of Brona‘s copy has me thinking about something else all over again!

I loved the sidestepping move by Rose Garmony. YOWZA, was she interesting.

So, even if a bit bumpy and I question the plot, I enjoyed every minute of it. Let’s write some fanfiction to further delve into Molly and Rose, could we?

Rating: Four slices of pie. No pie (the pastry) mentioned but PIE CHARTS were found. I might suggest an almond torte as a pie alternative here. Almond torte sounds Dutch, no?fourpie

BIG thank you to JoAnn and Athira for allowing me to crash their readalong #damalong.



Copyright © 2007-2016. Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care from Care’s Online Book Club.  It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

9 thoughts on “Amsterdam

  1. Hmmmm this is not McEwan at his best (try Atonement, Enduring Love, On Chesil Beach, maybe even Saturday to read better IMO).

    This one reminds me of Solar at times – unlikable characters, implausible events, narky, mean-spirited attacks on just about everything and everyone, although the comeuppance in Solar is far more satisfying for McEwan leaving most of it to your own imagination!

    I liked Rose too, although she had to tell lies to regain dignity for her family and herself. Her public face was admirable, strong and stoic, but I wonder what went on behind closed doors?

    Molly was only revealed through the very flawed male characters eyes, so I didn’t feel that I got a real handle on her. They saw her as free-spirited, sexual, loving creation – she soothed their souls. But if you want to judge her harshly she was an adulteress who also had affairs with married men. I wonder if there were many female friends at her funeral?

    My duelling cover made me smile by the end. Those last few chapters that switched between Vernon and Clive could be seen as two men pacing off against each other. As we came to the end I wondered, like all duels, if one would survive, both survive or both be done in? This was the only real tension though.

    I hope to write up my review this weekend, so pop over in a couple of days to see where I ended up 🙂

    1. I’ll add links to everyone’s posts. I’ve read Atonement twice, On Chesil Beach AND Saturday so it must be that I’ve been reading his best work. That’s OK, I’ll keep trying them.

        1. I very much enjoyed your post! I attempted a comment, a LONG comment but the Blogger signin process never lets me succeed. Thanks for the links. I still need to read your best/worst of IMcE post so I will be back later.

      1. At the end of my post is a link to my post from a few years ago where I discussed the Best and Worst of McEwan. Sounds like we’ve read many of the same ones – I wonder which way you fall with them?

  2. Well, I finally finished the book at the beginning of the week and the left on another little road trip. Will be home tomorrow night and I can think about writing up my thoughts. But for now… Yes, Yes,and Yes to all three of those points. Overall though, I was disappointed in the book. Probably my least favorite McEwan so far. Hope it doesn’t deter Athira from giving hime a second chance.

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