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Sweet Tooth

3.38 of 5 stars 3.38  ·  rating details  ·  28,917 ratings  ·  4,491 reviews
In this stunning new novel, Ian McEwan’s first female protagonist since Atonement is about to learn that espionage is the ultimate seduction.

Cambridge student Serena Frome’s beauty and intelligence make her the ideal recruit for MI5.The year is 1972.The Cold War is far from over.England’s legendary intelligence agency is determined to manipulate the cultural conversation b...more
Hardcover, 301 pages
Published November 13th 2012 by Nan A. Talese (first published 2012)
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Chuck
My dearest Tom,

Upon reading your letter, my first impulse was to burn the accompanying package, walk away, and be done with us forever. But, as you seem to have uncannily predicted, I've now spent a couple of days and nights in your flat, devouring your manuscript and sleeping in between the sheets, nicely ironed. Given that you were in Paris and out of reach, there was no possibility of my responding to you immediately, so I had the luxury of abandoning myself to an extended period of reflectio...more
Elaine
What a disappointment -- the vivid passions that animate Atonement (even its "trick", which in retrospect seems too similar) have become cramped cleverness, just as, perhaps, the heroic World War II London of Atonement becomes the gray decline of the early 70s London of Sweet Tooth. To sum it up, I was very disappointed. There is a lot of erudition on show here -- about the Cold War, about the history of British intelligence, and especially, always, about books and literature. But to what end? E...more
Teresa
I've read all of McEwan's short stories and novels, and it's only now that I can see why his endings bother some readers (including readers like his main character, Serena). And if you are a different, and certain, kind of reader (one unlike Serena) you will have criticisms of his narratorial voice, but at the end, McEwan has an answer for every single one of them -- from why Serena sounds the way she does to those paddings of the backward glance (quote from the book). He has anticipated them al...more
Kim

In my review of On Chesil Beach, I commented that I hadn’t read any of McEwan’s work since being profoundly disturbed by The Child in Time when I read it in the late 1980s. On Chesil Beach made me realise that I wanted to read more McEwan. I was therefore interested in this novel as soon as I saw it on the “new releases” table in my local bookstore. I elected to listen to the audiobook narrated by Juliet Stevenson, as it was cheaper for me to acquire than the text version and I knew from past ex...more
Samadrita
To pigeonhole Sweet Tooth into a specific genre will be an act of folly. In the beginning it gives off the impression of a mere Cold war era spy thriller, then steps with casual ease into the territory of metafiction and in the end it changes tack and becomes a meditation on romance.
But even so it never appears indecisive or loses sight of what it sets out to do - which is to juxtapose several contrasting themes and give us a fast-paced yet compelling human drama unfolding against the bleak bac...more
Maciek
The American edition of Sweet Tooth, Ian McEwan's latest novel, has a delightful cover - an image of a woman standing at a train station, looking over the tracks and into the distance. The image is in sepia, and the font in which the author and the title are printed have obviously been carefully prepared to resemble the classic paperback covers from the 70's. The effect is quite delightful and definitely works. It is also dedicated to the late Christopher Hitchens brought that fine man back to m...more
Julie
The opening paragraph of Sweet Tooth reveals the story's end, which is a tidy way of compelling you, dear reader, to focus on the important parts - the middle and such. You know it ends badly, so you can't possibly be disappointed; therefore, don't worry about it.

But then you remember that you are reading Ian McEwan, master of unreliable narrators and oft-tricksy endings, and you wonder - am I being told the truth of the ending as it is, or the truth as the narrator would have me see it? And sud...more
Caris
Apr 21, 2013 Caris rated it 2 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2013
“Fuck! It was dull, it was dead. I’d covered forty pages, as easily as counting. No resistance or difficulty or spring, no surprises, nothing rich or strange. No hum, no torque. Instead, everything I saw and heard and said and did was lined up like beans in a row. It wasn’t mere clumsy surface ineptitude. Buried deep in the concept was a flaw, and even that word sounded too good for what it was trying to name. It simply wasn’t interesting.”

I can’t remember ever having read a passage in a book th...more
Becky
Ian McEwan leaves me a little speechless, like an encounter with a movie star might, though I'm much more impressed by his writing ability and sense of what drives people, than I am by good looks and $20M a movie. (That said, I have met him and, for a gentleman of a certain age, he is quite attractive, and I dare say, not poor.) Each page of his books, and Sweet Tooth is no exception, makes me swoon a little. So, while parts of Sweet Tooth were a little lost on my dim bulb (I'll never fully gras...more
Bailey
Nov 24, 2012 Bailey rated it 1 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2012
If you want to read an Ian McEwan novel, choose a different one! McEwan has long been one of my favorite authors, but Sweet Tooth was hugely unsatisfying for me. I struggled to get through it; the plot dragged and the characters were both unbelievable and unlikable. It was well-written, but it lacked the emotional depth and psychological insight that to me is the mark of a great McEwan novel.

The book has been marketed as a "spy thriller," and you'll be especially disappointed if you start readi...more
Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh
You need to have a thing for dark atmospheric novels; Sour Tooth would be more fitting. It’s certainly not a thriller and it’s a spy novel only in the literal sense. Timeline the 70’s, the intrigue of London’s M5 during the cold war really just background ambience for this character driven novel. It opens “My name is Serena Frome 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, havi...more
switterbug (Betsey)
This is my third McEwan novel, so I am not veteran enough to compare elements of SWEET TOOTH to his large body of work, but a few aspects of his talent brought me back to ATONEMENT, which is one of my favorite British contemporary novels, and SOLAR, has last novel. ATONEMENT proved that McEwan pens female characters with finesse--even complex, conflicted girls like thirteen-year-old Briony Tallis. In SWEET TOOTH, he kicks the femme character up a notch by writing in the first-person perspective...more
Carmen
Oct 06, 2014 Carmen rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: I honestly have no idea
Recommended to Carmen by: Library
Shelves: fiction
Thanks for nothing, Ian McEwan.

I really don't appreciate (view spoiler)

Yes, yes, you're very clever.

Two stars because the writing is good and I liked the story.

Minus three stars for being a jerk.

I'm NOT ENJOYING this recent obsession with(view spoiler) authors dearest.

...

UPDATE 10/06/2014: On a more personal level, I was enjoying the heck out of the book and psychoanalyzing the main character. I was pleased as punch at how cold and even exhib...more
Petra Xtra Crunchy
This was really reading totally outside any genre of interest to me. Something about the cover got me.(I'm shallow like that).

Clever, but not terribly likeable, girl goes to Cambridge to study Maths which she doesn't work at (she'd rather be reading novels) but her main motivating factor is lurrrrrve. It would be, wouldn't it? So she falls in love with an older slightly mysterious married man which leads to a job as a real-life spy. So of course she falls in lurrrrve with the guy who is the mark...more
Cynthia
Love and Deception and Love

“Sweet Tooth” is set in the first few years of the 1970’s at the height of the cold war. Serena, who is anything but serene, is attending Cambridge studying maths at her mother’s insistence. She earns a third, poor girl. She’d much rather be studying English Literature because all her life she’s devoured book after book searching for an ever more romantic ‘I do’. To her delight she has a few love affairs while at school and one of her beaux leads her to a job at MI5 up...more
Jennifer D
the book started out really well for me and i was sucked right into the story. the book is dedicated to christopher hitchens. it's meta-fiction - many authors and books, as well as a book award (the austen prize, which is "better than the newly founded booker") feature on the pages of this novel. but...around the halfway/two-thirds mark...it got a bit...boring. which was disappointing - given the book also features mi5, spyishness and a bit of mystery. it could have been snap, crackle, pop-a-lop...more
Holly
Jan 18, 2014 Holly added it
Shelves: 2013-reads
Just some open-ended thoughts. And spoilers, too, I suppose:

I wonder if one of the reasons Serena is such a weak, passive, shallow main character is because, despite the first-person POV, McEwan can't quite bring himself to inhabit her? He has diluted her by having another character write her/spy on her (whom McEwan himself is writing/spying on).

Note: In an interview promoting this book McEwan claimed that he has a prejudice against first-person narratives: "There are too many of them. They're t...more
Cheryl
This is a Reader's book. It is about writing, about words, and about the power of words. It is about the pen being wielded in the same battlefields as the sword, and sometimes with the same amount of ignorance.

Serena is a young woman, and a babe in the woods when it comes to being an "operative" in MI5 back in the early 70s. She stumbles into her new career and is thrilled with the glamour she thinks must surely be just around the corner when one works for that secret department. She eagerly hop...more
Jonfaith
What I took to be the norm -- taut, smooth, supple -- was the transient special case of youth. To me, the old were a separate species, like sparrows or foxes.

Sweet Tooth is a deceit. There is a masque of espionage at play. There are feints, there are lies. The reader weaves as in concert, only to discover the ruse. This work also concerns a portrait of the early 70s, one of orange miniskirts and sanitation strikes. This is also a novel about deceit, especially literary deceit. This particular kn...more
Elyse
I just started reading "Sweet Tooth" this morning before getting out of bed...
My My, I can see I'm in for delightful *Ian McEwan* ride.....with his key narrator/female **Serena**.... an Professor 'Tony'.

I wasn't crazy about Ian's last book "Solar"....nor a fan of "Chesil Beach" ---but a huge fan of most other books he wrote. ---(his early books) --

So far-- "Sweet Tooth" has the 'feel' of what I love best about Ian McEwan ---
He knows woman -- He knows men -- He knows about relationships -- "Swe...more
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
Rating = 3.5 stars

I have been frequently and frustratingly disappointed by Ian McEwan, so this was actually better than I expected. But I had to get all the way to the end before I felt like my time reading it was justified.
Stuart
Ian McEwan is my favorite writer when it comes to style. There's something about the rhythm of his sentences that works for me. I thought he could write with aplomb in any genre until Solar came along and I found out McEwan definitely can't write satire. With Sweet Tooth, he's back on track. The novel isn't profound, but it is the most entertaining novel I've read this year by far.

Sweet Tooth is a story about a minor British spy scandal in the 1970s. A young woman, low on the M5 totem pole, is t...more
Marty


I'll have to think about this. My first reaction is 2 stars. I might change that.

January 16 ~

Okay, I've thought about it and my star rating remains at two stars. The following are my reasons why:

- First, I want you to know I am an Ian McEwan fan, but this book disappoints. I find all the characters glib, unlikable and unbelievable, full of themselves, predictable and boring. The writing seems, to me, to be self-conscious and contrived and the narrative is sterile, lacking any warmth. Sweet Toot...more
Teresa
Gosto de Mel.
Da sua cor dourada e límpida. Da sua textura espessa e cremosa. Do seu sabor suave e quente. Da sua extrema doçura, salpicada de um ténue aroma a flores…

Como uma abelha-mestra, Ian McEwan tece um favo de palavras, dentro do qual dispõe situações e personagens fabulosas, que se unem e separam através do que faz a vida ser vida: amor, ciúme, morte, tristeza, saudade, solidão, IMAGINAÇÃO…

O contexto, espacial, temporal, e histórico, em que as personagens se movimentam: espionagem, guerr...more
Lightreads
About 15% in, I said in tones of astonishment to my girlfriend, "dude, the book your dad got me for Christmas is actually good." Bless his heart, but this is the man who unironically and wholeheartedly believes that Smallville is good television and Twilight is a wonderful series. Not like there's anything in the world wrong with loving things. It's just really surprising the number of otherwise intelligent people who have never realized there's a difference between 'pleasurable' and 'good.'

Not...more
L. Lawson


I hovered between a 2 1/2 and 3 star review here and ultimately knocked it up a notch simply because the final chapter salvaged some of the loathing I had for this book and turned it into an 'okay' feeling. The main character is female...but not really. She's really just a player in someone else's game. She has little agency, and she's written in a way that makes you question if the writer knows how to write women at all. She falls in love with nearly every man she meets and can think of little...more
Lou
The story starts off with the introduction of the main protagonist one lady of the name of Serena.
She chooses in this story to take up employment with the Mi5 the homeland secret service.
We start off by learning of her life, her family, lovers and outlook on the world of the 1970's.
The title of this Novel is the name for a new project/operation the Mi5 was embarking upon in the novel with Serena as the honey trap.
Serena is an avid reader and finds herself with the responsibility of being underco...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Feb 11, 2013 Jenny (Reading Envy) rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jenny (Reading Envy) by: Dale and Karen
I really enjoyed this, and I don't always love McEwan. He has to try hard to impress me. But I suppose creating a female character who is a reader more than anything, and turning her into a secret agent - that can't get any closer, better than flowers and chocolates, you know?

The descriptions of Miss Serena Frome as a reader felt familiar.

"I've said I was fast....I could take in a block of text or a whole paragraph in one visual gulp. It was a matter of letting my eyes and thoughts go soft, like...more
Emily
Ian McEwan has done incredible justice to his readers with his latest novel “Sweet Tooth,” the compelling story of Serena Froome, MI5. “Sweet Tooth” showcases her brief, yet significant career in the intelligence service and is possibly the greatest novel I have read this year.

“Sweet Tooth” is the code name of Serena Froome’s first mission with the MI5. It involves funding and recruiting budding writers under the façade of an “arts fund” to manipulate and deter pro-communist publications in the...more
Shirley Schwartz
Ian McEwan is an extraordinary author. His characterizations and his writing cadence are extraodinary. This book was really not what I expected. I was expecting a spy thriller book with earth-shattering and catastrophic segments. There is nothing life-threatening or dangerous about this book even though the element of surprise and the fear of the unexpected are both there for the reader. I have to admit that Serena Frome was probably one of the most unlikeable protagonists that I've ever read. S...more
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Ian McEwan was born on 21 June 1948 in Aldershot, England. He studied at the University of Sussex, where he received a BA degree in English Literature in 1970. He received his MA degree in English Literature at the University of East Anglia.

McEwan's works have earned him worldwide critical acclaim. He won the Somerset Maugham Award in 1976 for his first collection of short stories First Love, Last...more
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“I turned the pages so fast. And I suppose I was, in my mindless way, looking for a something, version of myself, a heroine I could slip inside as one might a pair of favourite shoes.” 35 likes
“Love doesn't grow at a steady rate, but advances in surges, bolts, wild leaps, and this was one of those.” 21 likes
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