Thursday, December 27, 2012

Review: "Sweet Tooth" by Ian McEwan

Wow, another 2012 book, and a popular one at that! I'd almost call my media empire mainstream if I didn't just publish a 2000-word rant on what I thought was wrong with movie "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" over on my personal blog.

Ian McEwan's "Sweet Tooth" is about spies. Specifically Serene Frome (rhymes with "plum"), a young up-and-coming agent in Britain's MI5 of James Bond fame. Serena rescued from her dull routine of paper-pushing and endless filing when an old crush within the agency approaches with project Sweet Tooth, which seeks to secretly fund writers with a distinctly pro-capitalist and pro-Britain sensibility. The hope is that these writers will produce popular and well-regarded works that will sway public opinion away from communism and toward the status quo. Basically, Serena's superiors hope that her target will be the new George Orwell and write another "1984."

Of course, she sleeps with her target the second time they meet and begins a long affair with him; and of course, he doesn't end up writing "1984" at all, but a popular and well-regarded anti-capitalist dystopia. Oh dear, what will become of Serena and Sweet Tooth now?

There's a twist at the end of this novel that I'm not going to give away here. But if, like me, you're slightly bothered by Serena's narrative and think her a bit of a twit or lacking in some ill-defined way, you're in for quite a surprise.

I breezed through this one in a couple of days. It's a fine novel, the twist is a memorable one, and I was interested to learn about Britain in the late sixties and early seventies, especially in regard to the way it's government handled various energy and political crises both at home and abroad. I suspect that readers who are interested in the politics of the Cold War, or politics in general, will notice and appreciate many things that went over my head. But it's not a book I need to own or read again.

Final grade: B. Recommended for Anglophiles, those interested in the Cold War, and fans of all things spy-related.

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