Friday, February 11, 2011

Completed: Amsterdam


I finished Amsterdam. I'm trying to think about why I bought this book, but I don't think it was anything special. I'm guessing that I might have picked this up after reading a previous novel by McEwan, Enduring Love. Of course, after actually reading it, I'm wondering why I bothered to move it thousands of miles---not just once, but twice!

Let me say that this little book felt compact and easy to read. The story begins with a funeral of a woman named Molly. The two main characters, Clive and Vernon (so British!), are good friends, but also former lovers of Molly. The successive chapters switch perspectives from both men. Clive is a composer writing a symphony to celebrate the end of the Millennium. Vernon is a newspaper editor trying to keep his paper from failing.

The plot speeds up as Vernon is offered an unbelievably tasty scoop from Molly's husband: salacious photos of a high-ranking politician. When Vernon first sees the photos, I thought McEwan was going to pull a Pulp Fiction-esque move and never tell what was really in them, instead leaving it to the reader's imagination. This was annoying, until the content of the photos was revealed--the man was dressed in women's clothing. Yawn.

The writing is beautiful, even stunning at times. McEwan writes dazzling sentences. However, the whole plot left me cold. Vernon and Clive disagree over whether the photos should be published. They argue. Things escalate to the point where each one plots to kill the other? Um, okay. Sure, I totally believe that that would happen.

It just all goes completely off the rails for me by the time they leave London and go to Amsterdam for the first rehearsal of Clive's symphony. I don't know. A bunch of shit happens at the end. Clive kills Vernon, Vernon kills Clive, and it turns out that all along it was the dastardly plan of Molly's husband who was always resentful of them. Whaaattttevvverrrr.

Thank goodness it was only 187 pages, or I really would have been angry. As it was, it was just a baffling couple of hours. Oh well, they can't all be winners, right?


PS. In a brief TOB update: I finished Bad Marie and quite liked it, which surprised me. After reading the description, I figured I'd hate it. I'm almost done with The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake. We will definitely be discussing that soon!


  1. Your review made me laugh out loud -- thanks for the chuckle. Meanwhile, how do Clive and Vernon kill each other?

    I am dying to talk about Lemon Cake! When I read it, I actually had to tell Bill the entire plot of that book so that I could discuss it with someone. Heh.

  2. They poison each other. Or something. This seems to hinge on the particularly lax drug laws of Amsterdam, maybe? Honestly, I think I was wide awake when I read it, but it doesn't make sense. Maybe I was drifting off and missed the finer points of the plot twist. But really, I don't care enough to go back and reread.

    And here's some irony for you---I signed off by saying that they can't all be winners. And yet this book won The Booker Prize! WTF?