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Amsterdam: A Novel by Ian McEwan
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Amsterdam: A Novel (original 1998; edition 1999)

by Ian McEwan (Author)

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6,7631801,065 (3.37)445
In the affairs of his dead wife, a British publisher discovers compromising pictures of the foreign secretary who was her lover. An opportunity for revenge on both the political and personal level.
Member:francishemingway
Title:Amsterdam: A Novel
Authors:Ian McEwan (Author)
Info:Anchor (1999), 208 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:***
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Amsterdam by Ian McEwan (1998)

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» See also 445 mentions

English (164)  Spanish (4)  Swedish (2)  Dutch (2)  Italian (2)  Norwegian (1)  French (1)  Danish (1)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (179)
Showing 1-5 of 164 (next | show all)
maybe 2.25 stars. the writing here is good, and i thought right from the beginning that i'd probably like this. theoretically i also like the themes of questionable and philosophical morality. but i found this a bit hard to like and to care about. i also feel like the ending was telegraphed and set up from quite early on, although i somehow didn't think they'd both die at the end. i guess that it's so unrealistic an ending that i wasn't convinced he'd really go there. but i do like the discussions that vernon and clive have with each other about their respective moral quandaries - clive not stepping in to help protect someone being attacked in order to continue his train of thought on the great piece of art he is producing; and vernon shaming and outing a right-wing politician for something that he believes is ok if liberals do it, in the hopes it will derail this politician's career, and therefore be for the better good. these are both interesting conversations that could have gone deeper.

i think, in the end, that i'm interested in reading him again, maybe a few of his books even, but this one isn't going to end up being one of his that i remember. he is a good writer, that much is obvious. and this is fine, but i wanted more from it. probably not the best book of his to start with. ( )
  overlycriticalelisa | Jul 29, 2021 |
An entertaining but odd little moral fable—not quite what I'd expected after reading Atonement. I'm not entirely sure what to make of it. ( )
  Charon07 | Jul 16, 2021 |
The best way I can describe my feeling towards this book is 'meh'. Its just as well its a short book as I think I would have discarded it before the end otherwise. I picked it up because of some of the reviews I had read and whilst it wont put me off McEwan's work I just wasn't feeling it. I didn't really engage with any of the characters and apart from being horrified that Clive stood by whilst a woman was attacked it didnt move me at all. The ending came as a little surprising but not enough to cause me to change my opinions on it. ( )
  Brian. | Jun 13, 2021 |
Hmm, I have a tough time with this one. One the one hand, I love McEwan and the writing was fantastic. But the plot itself left a lot to be desired. And even then, I was more interested in one half of the plot. In the end, I was glad this was a short read and wasn't sad to see it end. I really don't understand why this won the Booker Prize. ( )
  JustZelma | Dec 20, 2020 |
I'm reading all the Booker Prize winners of the past 50 years. www.methodtohermadness.com

Ian McEwan is one of those fabulous writers, like Ann Patchett, whose books are each unique. He writes with convincing authority about realms as divergent as music composition, underworld thugs, and wartime nursing. I have been looking forward to reading a new Ian McEwan book since the beginning of this project, and I was not disappointed.

Weighing in at just under two hundred pages, Amsterdam is a lightweight of a novel, but it could stand up to anything by O. Henry in a championship fight. It is brilliantly plotted, bitingly witty, and breathtakingly ironic.

Amsterdam is the story of two men whose friendship reaches a new level after the death of a woman they both loved. It is a meditation on friendship and selfishness, hypocrisy and ethics, success and revenge. I wouldn't spoil a page of it for you, but just to whet your appetite, you will find an editor double-crossing, a politician cross-dressing, and...oh, just read it. ( )
  stephkaye | Dec 14, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 164 (next | show all)
Because Booker prize deliberations go on behind closed doors, we'll never really know what led the judging panel to Ian McEwan's Amsterdam. Naturally, that makes it all the more tempting and intriguing to speculate. What discussions were there? What compromises were made? Who stuck the knife into poor old Beryl Bainbridge? Were there displays of taste and erudition from Douglas Hurd and Nigella Lawson? How was the case made for Amsterdam? Were there compromises, or just a fuzzy consensus? Did anyone dissent? Did anyone actually try to suggest that this isn't a very good book?
On the latter question, we must assume that the answer was "no" – or that the person making the case against the book was roundly ignored. As I shall now attempt to show, a point-by-point debunk of the novel can be carried out in around five minutes – even less time than it takes to read the thing.
added by KayCliff | editThe Guardian, Sam Jordison (Dec 6, 2011)
 
Amsterdam is an intricate satirical jeu d'esprit and topical to the point of Tom Wolfeishness. It is also funnier than anything McEwan has written before, though just as lethal.
added by jburlinson | editNew York Review of Books, Gabriele Annan (pay site) (Jan 14, 1999)
 
''Amsterdam'' is very British and, despite its title, takes place mainly in London and the Lake District. On the scale of nastiness, it gets high grades as well. But it is less unsettling than McEwan's earlier solemn-gory fables since its humorous dimension is everywhere apparent -- granted that the humor is distinctly black. Its tone overall, as well as part of its theme, reminded me more than once of the excellent 1990 Masterpiece Theater production ''House of Cards,'' in which Ian Richardson plays a sinister Tory cabinet minister.

What readers tend to remember from McEwan's fiction is its penchant for contriving scenes of awful catastrophe: human dismemberment in ''The Comfort of Strangers''; a confrontation between a woman and two deadly wild dogs in ''Black Dogs''; the tour de force balloon disaster that brilliantly opens ''Enduring Love.'' Nothing in ''Amsterdam'' quite measures up to these events. Instead, the tribulations of its two main figures -- a composer, Clive Linley, and a newspaper editor, Vernon Halliday -- are treated in a cooler, more ironic manner, even as they move toward disaster. This chilliness is an extension of McEwan's habitual practice of damping down the sensational aspects of his imagined encounters by narrating them in a precise, thoughtful, unsensational way. It may, in fact, make the violence, when it occurs, seem that much more natural and inescapable.
 

» Add other authors (27 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
McEwan, Ianprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Caulfield, MaxNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Verhoef, RienTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Zulaika Goicoechea, JesúsTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Zulaika, JesúsTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
"The friends who met here and embraced are gone,
Each to his own mistake;"
~ W.H. Auden "The Crossroads"
Dedication
To Jaco and Elisabeth Groot
First words
Two former lovers of Molly Lane stood waiting outside the crematorium chapel with their backs to the February chill. It had all been said before, but they said it again.
Quotations
There was something seriously wrong with the world for which neither God nor his absence could be blamed.
(as irony): V.T. did that famous front page. Pushed all the copy onto page two and let the piture tell the story .
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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In the affairs of his dead wife, a British publisher discovers compromising pictures of the foreign secretary who was her lover. An opportunity for revenge on both the political and personal level.

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Book description
Two old friends meet outside a crematorium on a chilly February day paying last respects to Molly Lane. Both Clive Linley, Britain's most successful modern composer and Vernon Halliday, editor of the quality broadsheet The Judge, were Molly's lovers in the days before reaching their current eminence. Gorgeous Molly had other lovers, including Julian Garmony, Foreign Secretary, a notorious right-winger tipped to be the next prime minister. Following Molly's funeral, Clive and Vernon will each make a disasterous moral decision, testing their friendship to the limits, and Julian Garmony will fight for his political life. Amsterdam, a short novel, is a contemporary morality tale that is as profound as it is witty. It is perhaps the most purely enjoyable fiction Ian McEwan has ever written.
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