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Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan

Sweet Tooth (original 2012; edition 2012)

by Ian McEwan

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2,1341463,067 (3.55)147
Title:Sweet Tooth
Authors:Ian McEwan
Info:Jonathan Cape (2012), Hardcover, 336 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:English Fiction

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Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan (2012)

  1. 00
    Too Bad to Die: A Novel by Francine Mathews (BookshelfMonstrosity)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: A tense and enthralling historical thriller in which British Naval Intelligence officer Ian Fleming attempts to foil a Nazi plot to assassinate FDR, Churchill, and Stalin.
  2. 11
    The Unwitting by Ellen Feldman (RidgewayGirl)
    RidgewayGirl: The same general topic from a different angle.

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Showing 1-5 of 134 (next | show all)
McEwan's latest is a combination spy and love novel. I didn't think the prose was as richly beautiful as in Atonement, but it was a decently engaging novel and I liked the metanarrative twist at the end. ( )
  jalbacutler | Jan 10, 2017 |
It almost seems as though Ian McEwan approaches fiction writing as a form of self-education, given the amount of research he clearly does into the professions of his characters. We've had surgeons, physicists, judges, and now women spying for MI5 in the 1970s. His research is always thorough enough to convince me the characters are real, and though there may be a bit of factual overload that gets a bit boring at times, I found this more readable than most spy novels. I liked the 1970s setting with its cold-war obsessions and three-day-week and thought this came across well. I thought the plot was so-so - the "Sweet Tooth" thing felt a bit far-fetched and doomed to failure, but the romance element of it, despite Serena apparently falling in love with every male that crosses her path, the uglier the better, was well done.

I can definitely say I've learned something. Partway through someone uses the term "berk", as casually as I might use it myself in fact. Serena observes that many people will be aware of its origins in rhyming slang. (Rhyming slang? *Hastily consults Google*) Nurse! The smelling salts! Won't be using that quite so casually in future...

There is a twist at the end that I saw coming, partly because of some over enthusiastic synopsis writing on the back cover. I'd avoid reading too much of that before tackling the novel. You generally know what you're going to get with an Ian McEwan novel and this is very much business as usual. ( )
  jayne_charles | Jan 2, 2017 |

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 |
Showing 1-5 of 134 (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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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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