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Black Dogs

3.41 of 5 stars 3.41  ·  rating details  ·  6,182 ratings  ·  418 reviews
Set in late 1980s Europe at the time of the fall of the Berlin Wall, Black Dogs is the intimate story of the crumbling of a marriage, as witnessed by an outsider. Jeremy is the son-in-law of Bernard and June Tremaine, whose union and estrangement began almost simultaneously. Seeking to comprehend how their deep love could be defeated by ideological differences Bernard and ...more
Paperback, 149 pages
Published December 29th 1998 by Anchor (first published 1992)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Adam
I don't understand how anyone could dislike this. It's basically a novel about ideologies and philosophies and how they apply to human beings, not about them in general, and McEwan's prose is so precise and fabulous that reading this whole thing, a book where barely anything actually happens except for near the end, was incredibly involving and fascinating. The characters feel like genuine people, there is no political condescension or sloganeering, just thoughtful human debate. I'm also constan ...more
Elizabeth
I want to love Ian McEwan based on Zadie Smith’s (hilarious) interview with him in the Believer book of Writers on Writing. Maybe Black Dogs wasn’t the place to start. It was interesting to see his life work paralleled against Roth’s in the New York Review of Books (Al Alvarez, July 19 2007), suggesting that McEwan, like Roth, came of age as a writer at a moment when sexuality had to be busted out and that he, like Roth, was in the vanguard of this. I was expecting something more original in his ...more
AC
I quite liked this -- like it much more, in fact, than the reviews of my GR friends led me to expect I would. It is richly packed with ideas and character into what is almost only a novella in length, and I found the ending to be particularly strong and well prepared by what had gone before. The book is not flawless, there are technical weaknesses early on -- that is, the craftsmanship sometimes shows -- and there are passages where the 'debate' becomes a bit ham-handed..., but the fundamental i ...more
Mark
Jul 10, 2014 Mark rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: ?????
Recommended to Mark by: No-one for definite so no-one I can actually blame
This was a really something and nothing book.

I read it a few months ago and normally even confused or disjointed novels look clearer to me from a distance. Rather like seeing a landscape with a fuller perspective and you can catch the beauty of the overall effect, the roll of the hills, the gathering of the woodland, the undulations of the streams which you miss if you are too close. It is only when you step out of the immediacy of the thing that you see its meaning, its purpose.

This hasn't hap
...more
Will
Apr 27, 2014 Will rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: ebook

A beautifully written novella but hollow in the centre, and leaving me dissatisfied at the end. It essentially revolves around a biography that the “author” Jeremy wants to write about his in-laws, June and Bernard. (To understand why they are so important to Jeremy, you need to read the introduction which is actually part of the novella itself and not, as I first thought, an autobiographical note on the real author’s life. Nice one, Ian).

June and Bernard get married just after WW2 but on their
...more
Ana
The introduction to this book blew me away.

It sometimes so happens that I start reading a book without really thinking about it. For the first 5, 10 pages, I don't take it "seriously", if you will. I think it's sort of a professional flaw, after reading so many books, I know from the very first one or two pages, how many more I can afford to not attentively read. Usually, that happens when you don't have too many characters and so there are not many introductions to be made.

When I read somethi
...more
Cecily
Very disappointing, and yet not a dreadful book either (I've read five other McEwan's, all 4* or 5*).

The narrator is preparing the memoirs of his dying mother-in-law and particularly wanting details of a terrifying encounter with black dogs more than 40 years ago that changed the direction of her life, and therefore that of her husband and children.

Jeremy describes his own childhood, contrasting it with that of his wife, and tells of trips to the care home to talk to his mother-in-law, recountin
...more
Aric Cushing
I HIGHLY RECOMMEND this. An incredibly satisfying quick read, accumulating in the powerful image (both symbolically and literally) for the narrator's mother-in-law at the end of the novel, which is the title of the book. I was also shocked to find a few people didn't like it. This book is part memoir, part fiction, and at the same time an examination of explosions of violence.
Friederike Knabe
"Ever since I lost mine in a road accident when I was eight, I have had my eye on other people's parents..." Jeremy, first person narrator in Ian McEwan's BLACK DOGS, finds what he is searching for in the parents of his wife Jenny, June and Bernard Tremaine. Placing the exploration of his in-laws' complicated relationship over five decades at the story's core around which the philosophical, spiritual and moral themes are continually gyrating, McEwan masterfully dissects the private sphere within ...more
Bob Mustin
I still find it odd that some (if not most) people will never re-read a book. I've just re-read this one because it was my first McEwan and I was so unfamiliar with his odd story structure that the essence of the book didn’t stay with me. But that was something like ten years ago. I like to think I’ve grown as both reader and writer in that time, so I knew the book would speak volumes to me now.

It does. But given that you might not have read it, a little something about the storyline.

English c
...more
Paul Bryant
He tries to meditate upon profound themes in a short span of 174 pages and he ends up being tiresomely symbolic and a real windbag too :

"But the next day, and the day after, and on all the succeeding days, they never set foot in the metaphorical landscape of their future. The next day they turned back. They never descended the Gorge de Vis and walked by the mysterious raised canal that disappears into the rock, never crossed the river by the medieval bridge or climbed up to cross the Causse de B
...more
Marco Tamborrino
Domani mi sarò già dimenticato di cosa parla.
Susan
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Ginny_1807
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Simona
Dopo ormai 3 libri letti ("Espiazione", "Bambini del tempo", "Miele", anche se l'ho amato in misura minore rispetto ai precedenti), posso dire che con McEwan è ormai amore puro.
Lo stesso amore che, purtroppo, non ha potuto provare Jeremy, che, in seguito alla morte dei genitori avvenuta quando aveva solo otto anni, cerca quell'amore vero e naturale che esiste tra una madre e un figlio e che alla fine troverà nelle figure di June e Bernard, i suoceri della moglie Jenny.
In un viaggio che si snod
...more
Matthew
Another McEwan book about people who love each other but somehow fail to stay together. A theme he does well.

Here the people who love each other begin their marriage as idealists, British communists with ambitions to change the world. The husband remains political, dedicated to various causes even after he abandons communism. The wife has an experience with black dogs on her honeymoon, which sends her on a quest for spiritual truth. The black dogs and other scenes of danger add an unexpected ele
...more
Rachelle Urist
Anything Ian McEwan writes is worth reading. This book, BLACK DOGS, is arresting not only for the masterful storytelling but for the fascinating dialogue between a spiritualist and a skeptical rationalist. The debaters are married, but long estranged. Their mutual embrace of communism had cemented their union. When she begins to see signs of evil (the black dogs), of the metaphysical, their relationship begins to unravel. The creatures she sees (real? imagined? what about the bite marks on her r ...more
Maggie
Would be 3.5 stars if possible. I forgot how well he writes. Even if I usually find him/his characters pretentious and unrelatable. There were those moments in this book as well, but I resonated too closely and personally with the classic Rational vs Spiriutal, Good vs Evil, White vs Black - vs Gray inner conflicts of the soul. What do we really really wish for - what "should be" , versus what really is, and how we reconcile the two. I like how McEwan's protagonist/storytelling device, Jeremy, d ...more
Srikanth Mantravadi
Black Dogs confirms that McEwan was at his formidable best in his early books than in his later works. The themes are peculiar, complicated and even unpleasant. Black Dogs is an odd book. Unlike his macabre novels or stories there is no gradual escalation of psychological violence. It is a quiet book and ends on a quieter note. It is infinitely thought provoking especially when touching upon beliefs (vis-a-vis science), human experiences and the subtle evocation of post-war atmosphere.
I will clo
...more
Dina
While Ian McEwan continues to be one of my favorite authors, his book 'Black Dogs' was not my favorite book of his.

The title apparently comes from the name that Winston Churchill bestowed on his depressions. As used in this book it actually seemed to signify something more evil and irrational, "civilization's worst moods." McEwan applied this metaphor into a meditation on Europe's past and future.
McEwan used a fictional family (Bernard and June Tremaine) to demonstrate the impact time past has
...more
Stephanie Sun
I was so incredibly conscious that I was reading an Ian McEwan novel the whole time, but I still liked it.
Sarah
I gave this 3 stars yesterday, but as it's settled, I'm more and more taken with Black Dogs. What a writer! What a story! I'm still thinking about a lot of the passages and am bumping up my rating. My original review is below:

Once again, I'm incredibly impressed by Ian McEwan's writing and his ability to transport the reader so fully into a time and place that isn't at all familiar. That being said, I don't think this is a top McEwan for me-- it lacked a spark or something resembling joy but I c
...more
Vonia
Not one of my favorites from Ian McEwan, although as I love a few of them, that is likely a compliment... I only found this to only be alright. I felt I only partially knew the characters; their stories were only partially told.

The title refers to what the main character's mother-in-law saw as a symbol of all that was bad & wrong in the world; in the end, it was what changed her life forever. She became a different person, becoming religious, etcetera. Supposedly they were once used by fore
...more
Marc Maitland
Write a review...I have read many of Ian McEwan’s novels, and one of their most attractive features is being tied to specific times and places, and connected to specific events in recent history (e.g. “Saturday”). This is no exception, the time and place being, in part, 1988 and the fall of the Berlin Wall. But that is only the fulcrum around which the carefully-interwoven narrative revolves, stretching right back to the darkest days of the Second World War. An aspect of which is too horrendous ...more
Chris
I found a used library hardcover of this at Half-Price Books about three months ago - I have a thing about hardcovers, so I had to buy it, although I was not initially terribly excited by the synopsis. I'm a pretty avid fan of Ian McEwan; since I read The Cement Garden, I've really become enamored of his writing style. It's very intimate while still maintaining a narrative distance and certain coldness that I very much appreciate. However, since reading Amsterdam and On Cheshil Beach I've bec ...more
Elisa
Buona l'intenzione ma deludente il risultato.
McEwan vorrebbe indagare sul Male con la m maiuscola, quello che ci portiamo in giro come un arto supplementare, pronto a sferrare un colpo gonfio d'odio più o meno giustificato, nei rapporti più semplici con i familiari o in guerre insanguinate da questa o quella ideologia. In realtà vorrebbe, ma si ferma molto prima. Per lo più inciampa su un discorso ripetitivo e noioso che pare più l'ossessione di un uomo con la febbre alta che un memoriale. Per
...more
Rose
Aug 27, 2008 Rose rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: European historians, Communists and Communist doubters
Mark me down for my third McEwan book finished! This book was way better than Saturday, and not as good as Atonement.

As in the previous two, McEwan focuses on a few seemingly smallish events and the massive impact that ends up radiating from them. I think I've honed in on the recurring McEwan theme. In fact, for a while in Black Dogs, he even makes fun of this use of "turning points" by an author to drive home the point of a story. It may have been self-aware, or it may not have been.

His prose w
...more
William
"Black Dogs's" closest contemporary in the McEwan oeuvre is probably the novel "Saturday," as both can be read to satisfaction without acknowledging their political genesis, though at some level trying to read these very timely novels outside of their context seems to sell the whole purpose short. That effort is especially true with 1992’s "Black Dogs," published closely on the heels of German reunification, thick with reflections on the Jewish Holocaust, and constructed almost entirely around t ...more
Rob Tapper
Loved this great rollicking read,, no superfluous words here; a simple proposition in belief juxtaposed in a plausibly informative euro-geo-politico-historical setting for a would be family history gatherer.
In essence, for me, a fair portrayal of the fittingly doubtful states of mind for strongly held views, be they philosophical or simply superstitious mental conjuring; both seemingly being of equal plausibility for anyone person's choice for personality - "takes all types to make a world" stuf
...more
Paul Lima
There is no denying that Ian McEwan is a great writer, but sometimes his books just don't do anything for me. This was one of those times. An orphan becomes attached to the parents of his friends. He grows up and marries and becomes attached to his in laws. He sets out to write their biography -- they were pre-World War II communists who become something other. Instead he kind of writes about his life intermingled with their life, and it is sort of interesting. But the last part of the book, whi ...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
More about Ian McEwan...
Atonement Saturday On Chesil Beach Sweet Tooth Amsterdam

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“It is photography itself that creates the illusion of innocence. Its ironies of frozen narrative lend to its subjects an apparent unawareness that they will change or die. It is the future they are innocent of. Fifty years on we look at them with the godly knowledge of how they turne dout after all - who they married, the date of their death - with no thought for who will one day be holding photographs of us.” 75 likes
“These were the months that shaped us.behind all our frustrations over all these years has been the wish to get back to those happy days.Once we began to see the world differently we could feel time running out on us and we were impatient with each other.Every disagreement was an interruption of what we knew was possible-and soon there was only interruption.And in the end time did run out,but memories are still there,accusing us,and we still can't let each other alone.” 2 likes
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