Sunday, 6 October 2013

The Comfort of Strangers, by Ian McEwan

Why I read it: Shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 1981

Podcasts: None

Brow: At first, I thought Ian McEwan's novels were all upper middle brow due to his masterful sentence structures. But then as I read more and more of them, I realised he hit his peak from about 1992 with Black Dogs, had a good run until 2007's On Chesil Beach, and then lost it again. So anything from outside that time frame is actually low brow, including this.

Summary: Mary and Colin are on holiday in southern Europe. One evening, trying to find a restaurant, they get lost and meet a mysterious stranger called Robert. Robert takes them to a restaurant and spends the whole night talking to them. They meet him again the next day and he takes them home to his invalid wife Caroline. Colin and Mary are put off by the couple and avoid them for several days, but are eventually drawn back to their house for the book's climax and denouement.

What I liked about it: As I said, Ian McEwan is the master of description and atmosphere. He's also marvelous at building a suspenseful story out of one tiny incident or gesture. He has the sentences down in this book, but unfortunately it isn't enough to make it into one of his better works.

What I didn't like about it: I have to learn not to read early McEwan, when all of his books and stories are about weird sexual proclivities that end badly for the characters. When he does it well, his writing is moving, because we come to care about his characters. Alas, in this book, by the time of the climax, I didn't care enough about the characters to have any emotional reaction. Oddly, neither did the characters themselves, which was even more off-putting. In fact, I'm so put off that I'm considering not even reading his new book.

No comments:

Post a Comment