Amsterdam (novel)

The previous summer, I was searching the web for some ideas on good vacation reads, and came across an article about Ian McEwan. I was impressed with his writing career and felt a bit ashamed that up until that point I hadn’t read any of his works. I decided to fill the gap, and ordered four of his books: Amsterdam, Saturday, Enduring Love and Atonement. Both the article and his writing style must have been very convincing, since I read all four books one after another 🙂

Ian McEwan is a well-known English novelist and screenwriter. He was nominated for the Man Booker Prize six times and won the award in 1998 with the very novel I will be reviewing in this post. His writing style is simply perfect, and whenever I read something written by him, I’m surprised how every word fits in perfectly with the next, creating a particular atmosphere. If there is such thing as the engineering of prose, he definitely masters it 🙂

I should have probably started by saying that the content of the book doesn’t have anything (or almost anything) to do with the city of Amsterdam. It’s called Amsterdam because the story’s climax takes place in Amsterdam. Before going through the book, I had read somewhere that it was centered around a political theme, however that turned out to be a secondary subject.

The plot is very interesting and captivating. I really liked this novel because it presents the strange turn that a friendship can take in unusual circumstances. Friendship extended to unimaginable limits is the novel’s main theme. Positive emotions of friendship, kindness and love seemed to be transformed into fear, insecurity and loneliness under a strong desire for revenge.

One of the main characters, is Molly Lane: a lively, beautiful woman liked and known by everyone. She is presented as uniquely attractive – a popular restaurant critic, gardener and photographer, and more importantly, lover to three important men at different stages in her life. Her lovers know each other since all of them are public figures and two of them are also best friends. The story begins with her funeral, which turns out to be quite an ironic scene for her husband, George, with all her ex-lovers gathering to pay their respects. At a point in the story, he even considers holding another memorial service for Molly.

The other two main characters: Clive Linley, a renowned composer, and Vernon Halliday, editor of a newspaper, are best friends and have both dated Molly. As a consequence of Molly’s unexpected death, the two make a disturbing pact. Subsequently, they both make mistakes that the other considers immoral, and end up mortal enemies.

Finally, Julian Garmony, a third ex-lover of Molly’s and the British Foreign Secretary, also faces great loss because of Molly’s untimely death.

It’s easy to guess that the details of the plot revolve around the processes of composing a symphony, running a newspaper and managing political affairs. There isn’t much to say about the novel without revealing important pieces of the plot, so I would rather leave it up to readers to discover why I felt it was intense to the point that it was difficult to leave it from my hand until I finished it.

Amsterdam is an easy though at times shocking read, that builds a rich and comprehensive story which will keep readers on their toes.

Hardcover book:

Kindle version:

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