Author: Ian McEwan
Original language: English
Customarily, McEwan’s novels spring from a catastrophic incident in someone’s life, either a calamity that causes physical distress or a psychological trespass that causes emotional instability. For instance, in Enduring Love (1998), a man plunges to his death from a balloon, and in the aftermath, one witness continues to menace another witness. On Chesil Beach (2007) centers on an emotionally devastating wedding night. In his new novel, McEwan outdoes himself in terms of catastrophic occurrences. The protagonist, physicist Michael Beard, won a Nobel Prize several years ago and has been resting on his laurels ever since. A serial cheater, he is now married to his fifth wife, who leads a totally separate life, indicating her complete disdain for his wandering eye. His lack of effort in applying himself to either career or fidelity only increases our dislike of him. Even he says of himself, “No one loved him.” An accidental death in which he was involved and which he covered up, a politically incorrect statement aired before a professional audience, and his usurpation of the research of a deceased colleague: readers are taxed to even care about these crises. This draggy novel stands in stark contrast to its many beautiful predecessors, but McEwan is regarded as a major contemporary British novelist, so expect demand on that basis.