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Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan
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Sweet Tooth (original 2012; edition 2012)

by Ian McEwan

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2,1101453,114 (3.54)142
Member:HelenBaker
Title:Sweet Tooth
Authors:Ian McEwan
Info:Jonathan Cape (2012), Hardcover, 336 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:***1/2
Tags:English Fiction

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Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan (2012)

Recently added byantao, 160norcal, Robert3167, private library, memate, laurenbufferd, lisaross, mkunruh
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There's a delicious episode, which I've got to mention in passing, that had me laughing out loud. Serena is asked to come to the presence of four guys and one of the things the five men waiting up there ask her to do is to rank the novelists William Golding, Kingsley Amis and another guy, whose name I forgot, in order of merit (I won't tell which one came out on top in her view...). Serena's love of books, it turns out, is what interests them. Their project is to convince some writers of a leftish but non-communist tendencies, with a view to influencing the British media away from its increasingly anti-western bias.

I've got mixed feelings about this book. For me it didn't work on all levels. As a pure spy story, it fell short. But it's quite clear to me, that the author's purpose was to go beyond that. As a pure literary effort it works beatifully. I was expecting something more spyesque...My fault, not the author's :)" ( )
  antao | Dec 10, 2016 |
Oh my, I liked this alot!! ( )
  laurenbufferd | Nov 14, 2016 |
Spy story set in early/mid 1970s England
Main character Serena Frome a recent university graduate joins MI5
She is tasked to handle an up and coming writer called Tom Haley.
Serena and Tom fall in love. Tom is unaware that Serena is a spy.
Will Tom find out and will the love last?
This is good nostalgic book set in a time before mobile phones and the internet.
Well written book this. ( )
  Daftboy1 | Nov 8, 2016 |
It's definitely interesting. But sometimes I think that MacEwan falls so deeply in love with his tricks and twists that he forgets to make the book about anything. A clever but ultimately empty novel. ( )
  gayla.bassham | Nov 7, 2016 |
Fresh out of Cambridge and on the recommendation of her former lover, clergyman's daughter Serena Frome lands a job with MI5. It's the early 1970s, and the intelligence agency has just begun to employ women. Although Serena studied mathematics at Cambridge, reading is her true passion. She reads voraciously, completing several novels in a week. Her reading habits give her an opportunity to advance out of the clerical pool as part of operation Sweet Tooth. MI5 is secretly funding writers whose views are in opposition to communist ideology. Serena's task is to steer an academic with writing ambitions to accept an offer from a foundation. She hadn't reckoned on falling in love with the author, or the ethical compromises she'd have to make to keep her secret.

McEwan's novel revives the political and cultural atmosphere of 1970s Britain. Fictional characters discuss current events and mix with real literary figures like Martin Amis and Ian Hamilton. Even though the protagonist is female, it became increasingly clear that the novel is at least somewhat autobiographical.

I lived in London long enough to be familiar with its politics and its literary figures. This aspect of the book interested me and kept me turning the pages. What it lacks is an emotional punch. Serena's voice is so dispassionately analytical that she didn't seem to care how her story turned out. If she doesn't care, why should the reader? I couldn't get past hearing the story to living the story. The last chapter is proof that the novel doesn't really work. It wouldn't have been necessary if it had. ( )
1 vote cbl_tn | Aug 26, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 133 (next | show all)
A satisfying spy novel with a literary twist provides both surprises and sly references to McEwan's early work
 
Ian McEwan has never been a spy (or, if he has, that fact remains classified), but of today's novelists he may be the most uniquely suited to the profession. He has a scientific, technical mind drawn to structural ploys and complicated scene engineering. . . . Mr. McEwan likes manipulating readers as much as plots. . . . Ultimately, like his bloodless previous novel, Solar (2010), there is little point to Sweet Tooth beyond Mr. McEwan's low-level authorial deceptions. . . . The book is soon overwhelmed by its own narrative ruse, which revealed in the final pages, is clever but not meaningful.
added by sgump | editWall Street Journal, Sam Sacks (Nov 13, 2012)
 
In playing these mirror games, Mr. McEwan seems to want to make the reader think about the lines between life and art, and the similarities between spying and writing. He also seems to want to make us reconsider the assumptions we make when we read a work of fiction. As usual his prose is effortlessly seductive. And he does a nimble job too of conjuring London in the 1970s — with its economic woes, worries about I.R.A. bombings and uneasy assimilation of the countercultural changes of the ’60s. These aspects of “Sweet Tooth” keep the reader trucking on through the novel, but alas they’re insufficient compensation for the story’s self-conscious contrivance and foreseeable conclusion.
 
The combination of all these nose-tapping hints suggests to the alert reader that there’s something clever-clever coming along at the end, which makes it feel even more like a gimmick. I won’t spoil things if you’re going to read the book, but just remember that one of the central characters is a novelist. OK?
 
But Sweet Tooth – which has been misleadingly hyped as a thriller – is a different kind of work altogether. It’s McEwan’s version of metafiction, his exploration of what it could mean to write a postmodern-realist novel for a wide (mainstream and literary) readership. It’s also rather biographical. . . . . but this novel could be seen as his way of reaching beyond the easy labels without abandoning the style his readers love. He’s intelligent, has popular and literary appeal, manages credibly and interestingly to include politics in his writing, and has a gift for making an enormous range of readers feel as though he is writing about them, about their own particular life of the mind. He observes the tiny tragedies of growing up and growing old with humour and insight.
 

» Add other authors (6 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ian McEwanprimary authorall editionscalculated
Balmelli, MauriziaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Verhoef, RienTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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If only I had met, on this search, a single clearly evil person.
Timothy Garton Ash, The File
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To Christopher Hitchens
1949-2011
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My name is Serena Frome (rhymes with plume) and almost forty years ago I was sent on a secret mission for the British Security Service.  I didn't return safely.  Within eighteen months of joining I was sacked, having disgraced myself and ruined my lover, though he certainly had a hand in his own undoing.
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Recruited into MI5 against a backdrop of the Cold War in 1972, Cambridge student Serena Frome, a compulsive reader, is assigned to infiltrate the literary circle of a promising young writer whose politics align with those of the government, a situation that is compromised when she falls in love with him.… (more)

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