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Amsterdam

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On a chilly February day, two old friends meet in the throng outside a London crematorium to pay their last respects to Molly Lane. Both Clive Linley and Vernon Halliday had been Molly's lovers in the days before they reached their current eminence: Clive is Britain's most successful modern composer, and Vernon is editor of the newspaper The Judge. Gorgeous, feisty Molly had other lovers, too, notably Julian Garmony, Foreign Secretary, a notorious right-winger tipped to be the next prime minister.

In the days that follow Molly's funeral, Clive and Vernon will make a pact with consequences that neither could have foreseen. Each will make a disastrous moral decision, their friendship will be tested to its limits, and Julian Garmony will be fighting for his political life. A sharp contemporary morality tale, cleverly disguised as a comic novel, Amsterdam is "as sheerly enjoyable a book as one is likely to pick up this year" (The Washington Post Book World).

208 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1998

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About the author

Ian McEwan

153 books14.9k followers
Ian McEwan studied at the University of Sussex, where he received a BA degree in English Literature in 1970 and later 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 Rites; the Whitbread Novel Award (1987) and the Prix Fémina Etranger (1993) for The Child in Time; and Germany's Shakespeare Prize in 1999. He has been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize for Fiction numerous times, winning the award for Amsterdam in 1998. His novel Atonement received the WH Smith Literary Award (2002), National Book Critics' Circle Fiction Award (2003), Los Angeles Times Prize for Fiction (2003), and the Santiago Prize for the European Novel (2004). He was awarded a CBE in 2000. In 2006, he won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for his novel Saturday and his novel On Chesil Beach was named Galaxy Book of the Year at the 2008 British Book Awards where McEwan was also named Reader's Digest Author of the Year.

McEwan lives in London.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 3,792 reviews
Profile Image for Jim Fonseca.
1,073 reviews6,809 followers
December 28, 2016
A novel about moral dilemmas. From the title, the main theme is assisted suicide, legal in the Netherlands. Not only that, but suppose your lifetime best buddy asks you to pledge that you will accompany him to Amsterdam if he becomes incapacitated? The book opens with this theme at the funeral of a beautiful woman, 46 years old. She had been a lover or wife of four of the main male characters in the book. She died incapacitated from a debilitating disease. Her slimy husband took care of her and barred all visitors from her bedside.

And how about moral dilemmas that grow out of freedom of the press? For a book published in 1998 one of the main characters is an amazingly Trump-like character who is the British Foreign Secretary (right-wing, family values, anti-immigrant, pro-Brexit, anti-environment). Suppose you are an editor of a British tabloid and you are offered photos of this man posing in drag? Is it right to publish them to embarrass him? And is it right to make the presumption for all your readers that, of course, this behavior is “wrong” or “perverted” or “demeaning?”

And what moral responsibility do you have in this scenario: you are hiking. At a far distance you see a male-female couple having a somewhat violent argument: grabbing and pushing. Do you intervene? Maybe it’s just a domestic squabble, but maybe it’s an attempted rape?

These are the dilemmas faced by our two main characters, one a nationally-known music composer and another the editor of a major London daily. The details of their daily work lives are well-researched as is a hiking trip to the Lake District.

description

It’s a good read and held my attention all the way through. The moral dilemmas are laid out in conversational style with no pedantry. The only beef I have with the book is its melodramatic, highly implausible ending, but I still recommend it.
Profile Image for will.
64 reviews42 followers
March 27, 2008
Amsterdam by Ian McEwan

Is it just me or do other people "shy away" from books that look a little too intellectual for them? I read because I enjoy it. I am at an age where I don't need to read to impress. I like a good book (and I hate a bad book) and will read anything that interests me. I am shallow enough to pick a book up because I like the picture on the front or I like the title. I occasionally read books that others have recommended but I have to know what the other person likes. Too often I have started books that people tell me are "absolutely brilliant" to get halfway through and wonder what the hell I am doing. At this point I should mention I hated The Da Vinci Code with a passion however I will defend it with a greater passion. You see, the other thing I hate is book snobs. People who start off with the line: "Oh I never read any book on the best seller list - they are too populist!" In an anti-snob way I have a tendency to avoid any book that says "Winner of the Booker/Pulitzer Prize", more fool me! I worry that the book is going to be full of "big words" and "purple patches" - sometimes studying English Literature at school can kill any desire to read a "literary must read". I love my Neil Gaiman/Nick Hornby/Mil Millington. And then I read The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay and enjoyed it. It was only afterwards that I noticed the big sticker on the front "Winner of the Pulitzer Prize" - hey, maybe all intellectual books aren't that scary :^)

Amsterdam is the winner of The Booker Prize. It is a small, dull looking book. It tells the story of three men, linked by being ex-lovers, and what happens after the love of their lives dies. The three men are "the greatest living composer", the editor of an intellectual newspaper, the foreign secretary. It just sounds dull, dull, dull. It sounds like a book that I would pass up reading every single time I finish one book and return to the bookshelf trying to find another book to read.

Picked it off the shelf yesterday morning at just past ten, lived a fairly active "doing" day and yet, before ten at night, I had finished the book. I realised, as I closed it, that I had been secretly (or not so secretly) going back to it at every possible chance: sitting on the balcony for a cigarette - read; waiting for a scan of Dani's drawing to upload - read; watching the Yorkshire puddings rise in the oven - read; sit watching Spirited Away with the kids - read.

A very enjoyable book and not as dull as it pretends to be :^)
Profile Image for Julie G .
858 reviews2,638 followers
January 27, 2019
About a month ago, I was introduced to Ian McEwan through his novel Atonement. I nearly consumed the damn thing, chewed its corners to bits and pieces, scribbled messy notes all over its pages. I was starved for more of his writing, and I ordered On Chesil Beach, post-haste.

On Chesil Beach is FABULOUS. Truly. So fabulous, in fact, that I was worried my husband might become annoyed at my new feelings for an actual LIVING writer. You see, he agreed to all of my dead literary lovers, those who were already crouched in the corners of our bedroom (Cummings, Salinger, Steinbeck, Greene, Hardy, Eliot, White), but he never said okay to any of the living ones.

In truth, I had already been picturing myself in a trendy London cafe with Mr. McEwan, blowing the steam off of my tea, asking him, in a sultry voice, about his taut prose and his juxtaposition. My husband would know it was all for literature (for the dying arts!), and as long as I didn't bump into Ralph Fiennes or Colin Firth while I was in town, I would remain his, forevermore.

But now my London cafe fantasy has morphed into a vision of me in a Starbucks in Boulder eating a low-fat, gluten-free scone.

Boring. Yawn. Painful. How in the hell did Mr. McEwan bring home the Man Booker Prize with this one? Ian, I haven't given up on you, but AmsterDAM, sir, what happened here??
August 23, 2022
This might sound tautological, but McEwan certainly reads well -- you have got to hand it to him. There are no cracks to be found in his controlled composure: storyline and structure seamlessly combine to create a work of majestic, unquestionable virtuosity.

Amsterdam, winner of the 1998 Booker prize, is no different. The narrative largely follows -- at times exquisitely penetrating the interiority of -- two main protagonists: Clive Linley (classical composer) and Vernon Halliday (editor for The Judge newspaper). They have been friends since times past -- though we would have to redefine our conception of friendship here, giving it a 'twisted' twist -- and are both ex-lovers of Molly Lane, the character whose funeral they attend at the beginning of the novel and who figuratively haunts the narrative thereafter.

A very typical McEwan novel, both thematically and structurally. Though interspersed with the voices of supporting characters --politician Garmony and his family, as well as the rich, arrogant publisher George Lane, in particular -- the narrative is split in five parts that alternate between Clive and Vernon's respective perspectives. Throughout the novel, Clive grapples with writing the symphony for the new millennium, whereas Vernon is set on boosting the newspaper's circulation, not keen on making the list of sacked editors. But do their ends justify the means by them adopted? What are they willing to sacrifice towards achieving those ends? And at what cost?

Not uncharacteristically, this McEwan novel is callous, cutting, and very knowing. It knows the crookedness of humanity -- remembering Barnes' latest -- and it knows the ways of the world, in which what dominates is ruthlessness; the fickleness of politics and people. Because the contradiction between being human and human passions remains insoluble, and nothing stands a chance against the 'grip' of human ambition. Trying to save her husband's skin, Mrs Garmony argues that 'love is a greater force than spite'. And yet, there is no risk of equivocation here. 'Spite' and its equivalents overleap the confines of human consciousness, trample upon it, and remould its fate in ways that are difficult to decipher, ponder, articulate. The different manifestation of Vernon -- aka Vermin -- and Clive's moral depravity attests to this. What McEwan suggests is that there are other -- human though apparently inhuman -- forces that foreground any individual's understanding and acceptation of what is morally right or wrong. Indeed, this novel could be said to constitute a performance of (self-)deception and (self-)delusion...as well as self-centredness. Passions and ambitions make both protagonists mindless and oblivious to the scope or import of their (non-)actions. The figure of Clive, in particular, is reminiscent of Geoffrey Rush's phenomenal performance -- and representation of the genius's madness -- in Shine, one of the most beautiful films in existence. Clive's is also an acute caricature-representation of the creative process, and his Millennial Symphony itself is echoed in the build up -- or down, rather -- to Amsterdam, where all the loose ends are venomously tied up, with the intended, lasting aftertaste of phlegm.

There is no doubt that McEwan's writing is insightful and very refined -- consider, for example, the perfectly positioned and repeated phrase 'It's a spoiler'. But, if you ask me, flawlessness and brilliant literature are not to be interchangeably understood. And what is, for some, McEwan's irresistible and most impeccable accomplishment constitutes for me the real reason why I cannot love his work with the intensity of sustained study, time, and thought.
Profile Image for Lisa.
971 reviews3,330 followers
November 8, 2018
I guess I will have to admit that the ethical questions Ian McEwan raised in this novel - focusing on political views, freedom of choice, sexuality and media coverage - are highly relevant and contemporary still, and the novel deserves to be read as one of the better McEwans.

My neverending frustration with him is perfectly illusrated in Amsterdam, though: I absolutely hate his endings. More often than not they seem constructed, abrupt, somewhat willed.

Maybe my relationship to McEwan novels would be enthusiastic if a caring book gnome ripped out the last 10 pages in his entire works?

As it is, I conclude that ...
Profile Image for Glenn Sumi.
404 reviews1,493 followers
November 26, 2015
This sly little dark comedy – an unusual Booker Prize winner – examines aging and ethics in turn-of-the-millennium London.

A woman’s death irrevocably changes the lives of three of her former lovers: a composer, a newspaper editor and a politician, each one staring down middle-age and mortality with varying degrees of acceptance and equanimity.

McEwan’s prose is impeccable, and he’s clearly done his research. His depiction of the newspaper world, in which editors are under the gun to get that scoop and increase circulation (especially among a younger demographic), is dead on. (If the book were published today they’d be worried about getting clicks, views and increasing their social media presence.)

He also gets deep into the smug, narcissistic mind of a celebrated composer who’s trying to finish a grand commission called The Millennium Symphony before a fast-approaching deadline. I get the feeling McEwan’s a serious music lover. His writing about music is some of the best I’ve read in a contemporary novel. And one section in which the musician hikes through the Lake District pokes fun at the tradition of English musicians drawing on nature for their work.

Oh yeah, and there’s a scandal involving photographs that brings up lots of intriguing moral issues.

It took a while for me to grasp the book’s tone. Perhaps it’s a British thing. I think there’s a longer tradition of satire there (think of someone like Evelyn Waugh).

McEwan’s characters here are deeply flawed and unlikeable, and that’s fine, but I wanted a bit more backstory about them – especially in their history with the deceased woman. That way we’d be able to contrast what they WERE with what they BECAME.

Also: while the clever plot is carefully set up, and I admire the way McEwan plays with chronology, the result is a tad unsatisfying, especially the conclusion.

Then again, think satire – dark laughs, chuckling – and you’ll be fine with the finale.
Profile Image for AC.
1,646 reviews
January 29, 2016

This book made me want to scream.... On finishing it, I *literally* threw it against the wall in anger.

This is my third McEwan, all read in a row. I truly adored this book - while reading it, I saw it becoming his masterpiece. It was going to be a 5-star read. He writes simply, but the register of feelings is not simple in the least, his delicate probings into human neurosis is, while restrained, almost always and surprisingly on target -- I think one needs to have a bit of middle-age, perhaps, and experience in vicious bureauocratic infighting to fully appreciate how on target McEwn is in parts of this .... (after all, he WAS 50 when he wrote it; so why should a 23 year old fully 'get' it...?!) -- until I got to p. 161, the last 30 pages of this little book, and suddenly the author (who was to win a coveted prize for this book - the Man Booker) took a plot turn so implausibly ridiculous that one can only say that it was utterly stupid -- comically stupid -- or try to argue that, like one of his characters, he deliberately sought to destroy his own masterpiece... (a rather implausible argument itself).

Acht...!!!

What were you thinking, McEwan...!!??!
Profile Image for Sawsan.
1,001 reviews1,266 followers
December 2, 2020
رواية للكاتب البريطاني إيان مكيوان نال عنها جائزة بوكر عام 1998
فكرة المسئولية الأخلاقية التي يراها كل شخص من وجهة نظر مختلفة بحسب المصالح والعلاقات
تبدأ الرواية في جنازة مولي ونتعرف على زوجها, وثلاثة من عُشاقها السابقين
مؤلف موسيقي ورئيس تحرير وسياسي, تجمع الصداقة بين اثنين منهم
كل منهم يحدد الواجب الأخلاقي للآخر ويعفي نفسه منه إذا تعارض مع عمله ومكاسبه
يعرض الكاتب المظاهر السياسية والصحافية الزائفة المختفية وراء صور خادعة وقيم غير حقيقية
ويختم روايته بنهاية قد تبدو غريبة لكنها تتفق مع عبثية العداوات والتناقضات والمطامع
Profile Image for Alison.
417 reviews59 followers
October 27, 2009
I'm tired of the super-twist endings and the ponderous philosophical musings on guilt and morality. I'm tired of successful, monied people in nicely renovated townhouses feeling sorry for themselves. Maybe I don't get Ian McEwan. I'm okay with that. But I'm not going to read another one of these.
Profile Image for Iris.
42 reviews42 followers
January 24, 2016
This was a brilliant read, the second Ian McEwan novel I have read. I am tantalised by his dexterity as a writer, his ability to write in a completely different style from that employed in Atonement. This was utterly gripping. I read this as I am going to be leading discussion on this in the book group I lead at my former school, with sixth form students who are studying Atonement. McEwan manages to captivate the attention of readers so forcefully, though the characters are questionable in their morals and attitudes. The dry wit, black humour, satire and sparse, sharp prose combine to make this a biting, thrilling read. McEwan is a master of writing intricate, compelling twists and powerful denouements, a much better composer than Clive Linley, and unlike Linley, a true artistic genius.
Profile Image for Fabian.
935 reviews1,527 followers
November 9, 2019
A clear exercise on brevity, this is exactly what I mean when I say that contempo writers are cutting corners in telling their story with as little words, adornments, as possible, albeit establishing a more substantial umph! at the novel's conclusion. Sometimes.

The writer of "Amsterdam" used the same exact model to write a later book: an unsuccessful meditation on being filthy rich in modern London in "Saturday," an overall truly horrendous ordeal, & "On Chesil Beach", a work of repression...totally boring, in fact.

But this one, the one which was awarded the Booker Prize (!!!), is actually more of a fable stretched out to fit the parameters of the novel (it could easily be defined as a novella, the length of it being less than 200 pages but with megaprint)... and because it rings true to the baffling evils of modern politics and the customs of the rich elite, it's successful in striking a note on ethics of some kind in a reader, particularly, I would suppose, with the English. But here in the U.S., the story does not (usually always) belong to the rich... pretty much everyone strives for that pesky, muddled label, "Middle Class." Oh well. I grinned at the end of the novel, and for that maestro McEwan deserves commendation. The order of enjoyment of books of his that I've read through the years goes something like this:

1) Atonement
2) Enduring Love
3) The Cement Garden
4) Amsterdam
5) On Chesil Beach
6) The Comfort of Strangers
8) The Child in Time
7) Saturday

And right at the middle is this strange little book which, also like books 2, 5, 6 and 7 (even 1, come to think of it) describes the rich in all their insulting opulence. He also concentrates on the art of creating, probably feeding his own personal (and, again, it must be highlighted, ENGLISH) ego, & his sensitivities toward art.
Profile Image for Robin.
474 reviews2,497 followers
May 4, 2017
Starting with the exceedingly delightful and clever Nutshell, followed by the unequivocal work of perfection that is On Chesil Beach, this is the third Ian McEwan book I've gobbled up in a matter of weeks. This is also the 1998 winner of the Booker Prize.

I was hopeful that this would be the third in a sequence of ascending steps, each one that much more fine, each one defying writerly logic more than the one preceding it. But alas.

This Booker winner, while still full of writing that brings one to one's knees (I'm not worthy, Mr. McEwan), is my least favourite of the three. It had a promising beginning. But it's a story that I liked less and less with every page, every advancement of plot.

The plot. What a weird one it has, indeed! Two great friends, who happened to be lovers of the same woman at different times in their lives, are at her funeral. They are both traumatised about how she died so young and without dignity, they make a pact not to let that happen to each other. And then, all sorts of strange things happen, things that I found myself reading as a more distant observer with every passing word, feeling more detached and indifferent until I finally reached the end. (At least it was a short novel - a truly redeemable feature which saved it from a far harsher review.)

The best part of this book for me was with the character of Clive, the composer. McEwan writes such lyrical descriptions of music and the creative process (again, I genuflect). And Clive's story - the choice he makes in order to chase the elusive spark of creativity and finish his symphony - now *that* was interesting, and to me, could have been the pivotal story in the book. Far more interesting than the odd tumbling of events that actually occurred.

Also, the title - yes, I realise that the story ends in the city of Amsterdam. But it seems to me a really weak title, for a rather hum-drum story, written by a genius.
Profile Image for Linda.
Author 2 books134 followers
December 13, 2022

3.5
Have you ever picked up a novel that initially gripped you but found the conclusion so disappointing that it altered your view of the book? Unfortunately, that was my experience with Ian McEwan's Amsterdam.

The novel focuses on the unbridled ambitions and questionable ethics of two friends from the British elite, Vernon, a newspaper editor, and Clive, a classical music composer. McEwan, a master of satire and nuanced characterization, deftly chronicles their rise and decline and then fizzles out. However, I still recommend this book, especially if you are a McEwan fan.
Profile Image for Vishakha.
37 reviews111 followers
July 3, 2021
From the sublime to the ridiculous.This dark comedy is drastically and disastrously unlike my very first McEwan book, Atonement. A story about two smug, self-absorbed friends, Clive and Vernon, who contemplate their own mortality after the painful and untimely death of their common friend, Molly, at 46. It seems that the passing away of Molly Lane, a vivacious, pleasure-seeking, free spirited photographer, diminishes the spark from their own lives, compels them to ponder their future and come up with an unusual pact for a less disgraceful exit. What follows is a ridiculous plot decorated with charitable self-reflections, humorous observations, weighty moral conundrums, holier-than-thou moans and groans, unexpected spins, and a very, very mediocre ending -- all of it in the superior and elegant prose of McEwan. I could somehow endure the anticlimactic end as it could be remotely amusing for their pact to come full circle but what about the implausible characterization? Why would two sane grownups who have been life-long friends turn dangerously and irrevocably hostile?

One redeeming point for me was the sly commentary on the cultural decline in the society using the falling standards of news and music as examples. McEwan's clever portrayal of hypocrisy and opportunistic behavior made me chuckle. Also, the witty and eloquent prose was a consolation. And since I'm partial to self-reflections, more so when there are indulgent justifications of selective morality and flashes of casual misanthropy, I enjoyed their mental rants quite a bit.

As I wrap up, some profound thoughts on life and death from Amsterdam:

He knew so many people who had died that in his present state of dissociation he could begin to contemplate his own end as commonplace -- a flurry of burying or cremating, a welt of grief raised, then subsiding as life swept on. 

There wasn't really much else to do. Make something, and die. 

We know so little about each other. We lie mostly submerged, like ice floes, with our visible social selves projecting only cool and white. Here was a rare sight below the waves, of a man's privacy and turmoil, of his dignity upended by the overpowering necessity of pure fantasy, pure thought, by the irreducible human element -- mind.


And, a couple of amusing quotes which made me squeeze some pleasure out of this Booker winner:

Was it boredom or sadism that made the shirt service people do up every single button? 

(In the meeting) Everyone nodded, nobody agreed.


In summary: Disappointment wrapped in scintillating prose; never to be recommended as an introduction to the author. Also, Mr. McEwan's interest in music runs deep.

After all is said and done, I can't solely blame the author for my disillusionment with the book. My interest in it diminished midway, partly because I became increasingly obsessed with Kate Winslet's Mare of Easttown -- a rare occurrence for me as I can't sustain binge-watching, it makes me incapable and useless for everything else around me. Do check it out if you like bleak crime dramas.
Profile Image for Edward.
414 reviews389 followers
February 13, 2018
What is this absurd nonsense. Everything I wrote yesterday about Black Dogs in terms of plot and characterisation applies equally to Amsterdam, except where Black Dogs attempts (but fails) to be a good novel, Amsterdam seems to lack even the intention. It is impossible to take this novel seriously. The characters are ridiculous. The plot is ridiculous. The entire novel is a setup to a conclusion so laughably stupid, that it made me want reevaluate my ratings of McEwan's other novels. Sure, it kept me turning the pages, but for what?

A cheap thriller, and not even a good one. This won the Booker?
Profile Image for Darwin8u.
1,559 reviews8,648 followers
February 7, 2017
"There really wasn't much else to do. Make something, and die."
- Ian McEwan, Amsterdam

description

It won the Booker, but wasn't my favorite Ian McEwan. Similar to The Children Act in its use of classical music (one of the main characters is a classical composer), it is almost too clean, too moralizing, too easily tied up. But really, those are my only major complaints. I found it fascinating at parts and love love love it when Ian McEwan writes fiction about composing or music.

There are a few writers I've read recently who do a fantastic job of incorporating classical music into their stories. I'm thinking of William Gass and Middle C, Julian Barnes and The Noise of Time, Richard Powers and Orfeo, William T. Vollmann also gets a nod with parts of Europe Central. Anyway, I love it. It reminds me of reading DFW when he is riffing on Tennis or Pynchon when he is riffing on physics. There are certain realities that a great prose stylist can almost lift off the page. For me, McEwan's writing about music in this book is what keeps it at four stars and doesn't drop it to three.
Profile Image for Duane.
828 reviews388 followers
July 9, 2016
My third Ian McEwan and another excellent read. Not quite on the level of Atonement, but still good, good enough to win the Booker Prize. It has a different feel than the other two, more of a modern day intrigue. Interesting characters, though not all that likeable, a little too elitist for me, but McEwan's storyline carries the day. The best character may be the one they buried at the beginning of the book, Molly. McEwan should write a prequel centering around her character. 4 stars.

1998 Booker Prize Winner.
Profile Image for Jr Bacdayan.
211 reviews1,636 followers
February 4, 2014
Think of the shittiest, stupidest, most embarrassing thing you’ve ever done in your life. There now, I’m sure it was still classy, whatever it was, because you are a perfectly intelligent human being. You’ve read quite a number of complicated books; surely that elevates you above the lot of the Homo sapiens. You’re a Homo superior, a sapiosexual, a polymath, a refined member of the species whose primary attribute is a ridiculous tolerance for countless words. You’re the thinking man’s Jedi Knight or banana ketchup. Wait, is that a compliment? Let’s just say it is. So you made a rash decision, whatever it was I’m certain that what you did is tolerable. It was a mental mix-up, tame compared to what others do. You’re fine. You’re a solid human being. NAHHHHH! Who are we kidding?!! I bet the thing you did was so mothafucking insane that even dear old Adolf grinned in his grave. I’m thinking total mindfuck that you turned Sense and Sensibility from Austen to Trollope. Something so inherently out there, like unwittingly thinking that adding Zombies to Pride and Prejudice is a marvelous idea. Basically, you fucked up. Big time! So… did it involve a dabble into nudity? A botched public performance, perhaps? A drunken spree? Or did you give five stars to Twilight or some other raunchy, gaudy, teenage vampire novel? Or is it secretly liking Fifty Shades of Grey? Come on out now. Don’t be shy. We all did a lot of incipiently stupid things. No reason to feel bad at all. Unless it was the thing about Twilight and Fifty Shades, that’s god awful. You rot in hell. Haha! Just kidding. Whatever floats your boat, you freak. Alright, alright, I’ll stop there. Really, I’m kidding. Don’t get angry, just unfriend me or something, you Vampire lover! Hehehehe. There, I think I’m about done. Oh, wait a minute, there’s this last bit of insult coming out. Vampire Sex is the most ridiculous thing to have ever happened to the history of literature since David Hasselhoff’s Don’t Hassle the Hoff or even since dear old Adolf’s Mein Kampf!!! Sadly though, I think Harry Style’s Every Piece of Me is on par with the pathetic-ness of Twilight. Ughhh. Gross. Now, we’ve gotten really off track here. Bloody idiotic autobiographies! So, I was saying something about your top embarrassing thing. Sometimes though, your most embarrassing, stupidest decision can be getting into a relationship with someone who, so to speak, is a nut-job. We’ve all had that relationship with someone, who looking back, is so really awful that we keep saying to ourselves. “What were you thinking, you mindless twit?!!” Whoever it was, whatever it was, it should be pretty fucking miserable to remember. And when one of your old friends bring it up, God help their soul, you feel like hell will break loose. Ahh, the idiocy of our past selves can be sincerely comical and infuriating at the same time. But here’s where you question the morality of certain things. Can your former relationships dictate the outcome of your life? Can the most embarrassing things secretly take hold of the reigns controlling your metaphorical chariot? In case you were wondering, this really is a review of McEwan’s Amsterdam. It just occurred to me that McEwan started this book thinking of one thing, but proceeded to make something completely different as he ended. He started out with an intricate scene, the funeral of Molly, the woman who, all four main characters fucked at one point or another; I guess you could even say loved. McEwan goes on to complexly develop these four characters, four intellectuals, only to later on turn them into idiots and complete fuck-ups. I guess there were certain things that pushed them off the edge. But you can’t really say that this was done gracefully. The turn from top-notch human beings into the mindless morons was a little too briskly done for my taste. Somehow, it can be argued that a part of their insanity can be attributed to the death of Molly, but this is just speculation. It’s more likely that they were mercilessly given the insanity gene by almighty Ian. Loose morals and a complete disregard for anyone other than the self is the balmy target of this erratically weird tale. It’s like listening to an opera that suddenly takes a turn into disco-pop. I saw the signs, but I actually refused to believe that the great McEwan would be so.. so.. tacky. I was surprised by something I had dismissed as beneath the author. It’s like when you look at a person from afar and think: that’s an attractive human being. But when you arrive at close proximity, alas, your eyes hath deceiveth you. I hate it when this happens to me. I’m giving this novella a three just because of the brilliant prose and some scattered laughs. Still, the unfulfilled potential of this book makes me sad. The fact that this won the Man Booker makes me sadder. But, thinking about my embarrassing moments make me saddest.
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,568 reviews55.6k followers
December 22, 2019
Amsterdam, Ian McEwan
Amsterdam is a 1998 novel by British writer Ian McEwan. At the funeral of photographer and writer Molly Lane, three of Molly's former lovers converge. They include newspaper editor Vernon Halliday and composer Clive Linley who are old friends, and British Foreign Secretary Julian Garmony.

Clive and Vernon muse upon Molly's death from an unspecified rapid-onset brain disease that left her helpless and in the clutches of her husband, George Lane, whom they both despise. Neither man can understand her attraction to Julian Garmony, the right-wing Foreign Secretary who is about to challenge his party's leadership.

Shortly after Molly's death, Clive, who is single, begins to ponder what would happen to him if he began to decline in health. He reaches out to Vernon and asks him to perform euthanasia on him should he ever reach that point. Vernon reluctantly agrees on the condition that Clive do the same for him.

Vernon, whose newspaper is in decline, is given a tip by George, a series of private photographs taken by Molly of Garmony cross-dressing. Vernon decides to use the scandal to unseat Garmony, whose politics he disagrees with. He faces push back from his editorial staff and the board members of his newspaper about publishing the clearly private pictures.

تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز بیست و دوم ماه دسامبر سال 2014 میلادی
عنوان: آمستردام؛ نویسنده: ايان مک‌ ایوان؛ مترجم: میلاد ذکریا؛ تهران: افق‏‫، 1391؛ در 179 ص؛ شابک: 9789643697419؛ چاپ دوم 1392؛ موضوع: داستانهای نویندگان بریتانیایی - سده 20 م
عنوان: آمستردام؛ نویسنده: ایان مک‌یوئن (مک ایوان)؛ برگردان: شمیم هدایتی؛ تهران، نیلاد، 1398؛ در 188ص ؛ شابک: 9786001220388؛

در یک روز زمستانی در ماه فوریه، دو دوست قدیمی، در بیرون مرده سوزخانه ای واقع در لندن، یکدیگر را ملاقات میکنند، تا برای آخرین بار به «مالی لین» ادای احترام کنند. هم «کلایو لینلی» و هم «ورنون هالیدی»، پیش از رسیدن به مقام کنونیشان، عاشق و شیفته ی «مالی» بوده اند، «کلایو»، موفقترین آهنگساز مدرن در بریتانیا است، و «ورنون»، سردبیر روزنامه ی شناخته شده ی «جاج» است. «مالی» جذاب و زیبا، شیفتگان دیگری نیز داشته است: وزیر امور خارجه ی کنونی، «جولیان گارمونی»، سیاستمداری راستگرا و بدنام، که به مقام نخست وزیری چشم دوخته است. در روزهای پس از خاکسپاری «مالی»، «کلایو» و «ورنون» عهدی با هم میبندند، که نتایجی غیرقابل پیش بینی به همراه دارد. در این میان، هر یک مجبور به گرفتن تصمیم اخلاقی فاجعه باری خواهند شد، دو��تیشان در معرض آزمایش قرار خواهد گرفت، و «جولیان گارمونی»، برای حفظ زندگی سیاسی اش، خواهد جنگید. رمان «آمستردام»، حکایتی معاصر، تیزبینانه و با طنزی هوشمندانه است، که خواندنش برای هر خوانشگری، بسیار لذتبخش خواهد بود. نقل نمونه هایی از متن: «اینکه ورنون بخواهد آشتی کند و به همین خاطر به آمستردام بیاید مطمئنا چیزی بیش از تصادف، یا تصادف صرف بود. او جایی در قلب سیاه و نامتعادلش، سرنوشتش را پذیرفته بود. او داشت خودش را به دست کلایو میسپرد.»؛ «او تمام شب را کار میکرد و تا ناهار فردا میخوابید. در حقیقت کار دیگری برای انجام دادن نبود. چیزی بساز و بمیر.»؛ «اگر بخواهیم از منظر آسایش و منفعت تمام موجودات زنده ی روی کره ی زمین نگاه کنیم، پروژه ی خلق انسان نه تنها یک شکست بوده است، بلکه از ابتدا یک اشتباه بوده است.»؛ پایان نقل. ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Navid Taghavi.
157 reviews60 followers
August 4, 2019
نه سال پس از درگذشت شمیم هدایتی، ترجمه‌اش از رمان آمستردام نوشته‌ی ایان مک‌یوئن منتشر شد. شمیم هدایتی که در هنگام مرگ ۲۹ سال داشته است، علاوه بر مک‌یوئن آثاری از نویسندگانی همچون ولادیمیر ناباکوف، دیوید ممت، برد کسلرو آن تایلر را هم به فارسی ترجمه کرده است که تمامی این ترجمه‌ها در انتشارات نیلا به چاپ رسیده است و تنها استثناِی این آثار ترجمه شده، فیلمنامه زندگی شیرین پس از مرگ نوشته آتوم اگویان است که در مجموعه‌ی ۱۰۰ سال سینما ۱۰۰ فیلمنامه‌ی نشر نی منتشر شده است.

رمان آمستردام با مراسم ترحیم مالی لِین شروع می‌شود. پذیرشِ مرگ سختِ مالیِ سرزنده و بذله‌گو در ۴۶ سالگی برای دوستان و نزدیکان او سخت است. جورج در روزهای پایانی حیات مالی از همسرش پرستاری کرد و به حضور او در آسایشگاه تن نداد و از این طریق توانست با دستچین کردن عیادت‌کنندگان مالی و سخت‌گیری بر معشوق‌های پیشینِ مالی، انتقامی ولو کوچک از آن‌ها بگیرد. با این وجود، سه معشوقِ پیشین مالی که از قضا صاحب اسم و رسم هم هستند، در مراسم حاضر هستند. کلایو لینلیِ آهنگساز که در سال ۱۹۶۸ و در دوران دانشجویی مالی با او بوده است. نفر بعدی ورنان هالیدی است که سردبیر روزنامه است و حرفه خبرنگاری را از سال ۱۹۷۴ که از قضا در آن سال با مالی آشنا شده است، شروع کرده است و نفر سوم شناخته‌شده ترین معشوق مالی است. جولین گارمونی وزیر امور خارجه که رویای رسیدن به مقام نخست‌وزیری را در سر می‌پروراند.

جمع چهار نفره دوست‌داران مالی - جورج، کلایو، ورنان و جولین - نسبت به یکدیگر شناخت دارند اما این شناخت به دوستی ختم نشده است و در این میان تنها کلایو و ورنان رفاقت و دوستی نزدیکی با هم دارند و بقیه رابطه‌ها دوستانه نیست، با اینحال سعی‌شان بر این است که احساسات درونی‌شان را در معاشرت آشکار نسازند و حفظِ ظاهر کنند. با پایان یافتن مراسم، مالی از کانون توجهات فاصله می‌گیرد و عزادارانِ مالی به زندگی روزمره‌شان می‌پردازند تا اینکه جنجال بزرگی به‌پا می‌شود و هر چهار نفر درگیر آن پرونده می‌شوند. پرونده جنجالی که تاثیراتش فراتر از آنی است که در ابتدا تصور می‌شود. هر چند مالیِ از دنیا رفته، از قدرت و اختیاری برخورددار نیست، اما حضور پررنگش در زمان غیبتش در حوادث پیش‌آمده پس از مرگش، بر زندگی فردی و اجتماعی ۴ دلدارش سایه افکنده است.

ایان مک‌یوئنِ ۷۱ ساله تا به حال پانزده رمان نوشته است که آخرین آن در ماه آوریل ۲۰۱۹ منتشر شد. فعالیت ادبی مک‌یوئن به رمان‌نویسی محدود نمی‌شود و از او مجموعه داستان کوتاه و نمایشنامه هم منتشر شده است. علاوه بر این چند بار فیلمنامه‌نویسی را تجربه کرده است که در سه نوبت، فیلمنامه اقتباس شده از رمان‌هایش را نوشت. آمستردام که از رمان‌های شاخص مک‌یوئن به شمار می‌رود، در سال ۱۹۹۸ در انگلستان به چاپ رسید. مک‌یوئن که پیش از آمستردام دو بار نامزد جایزه بوکر شده بود، سرانجام در سال ۱۹۹۸ و با وجود رقبای صاحب‌نامی از جمله جولیان بارنز توانست برنده این جایزه ادبی شود. مک‌یوئن پس از آمستردام سه بار دیگر هم نامزد بوکر شد اما نتوانست جایزه رمان سال بوکر را از آن خود کند. پیش از شمیم هدایتی، میلاد ذکریا هم آمستردام را به فارسی ترجمه کرده بود که ترجمه جدید به مراتب از ترجمه پیشین بهتر و روان‌تر است.

Profile Image for Madeline.
766 reviews46.9k followers
January 14, 2011
The only thing worse than a Manic Pixie Dream Girl is a Manic Pixie Dream girl created by Ian McEwan.

Having only read two of his novels so far (this one and Atonement), I obviously can't speak for his entire body of work, but at the moment I am astonished at McEwan's ability to make all female love interests in his stories utterly unappealing. First Cecilia Tallis, now Molly Lane.

At least Molly, for all intents and purposes, does not actually matter in the grand scope of this book. When it starts she's already dead, and her husband and numerous former lovers (the three main ones are a politician, a newspaper editor, and a composer) are gathered at her funeral. The men reminisce about Molly and will continue to do so at random throughout the story, but she is never a real presence in the book - I got the sense that none of these men actually knew her, so the reader doesn't get to either.

Anyway, the shit hits the fan when Molly's husband goes through her stuff and finds some very compromising photos of the previously-mentioned politician, taken by Molly. The husband wants to sell the photos to the newspaper editor, the editor talks it over with the composer, the politician freaks out...blah blah blah.

I had two big problems with this book, which I will try to describe as best I can.

1. I didn't like anyone in this story. Molly wasn't even a person, so she's out, and the two central characters (the composer and the editor) seemed to be competing for the prize of Most Horrible Human Being. It was a tight race, to be sure, but in the end I was forced to give the award to the composer, who witnesses a woman being attacked and walks away from it. Sir, Detectives Stadler and Benson of Law & Order: SVU would like to have a few words with you, and none of them are polite.

2. I still don't know what McEwan was trying to do with this book. Is is supposed to be a nostalgic love story? A political story? A twisted morality tale? At the end, which I guess is supposed to be a very emotionally gripping and powerful scene, just left me confused and annoyed because after all that trouble, I had very little idea of what the whole thing was supposed to be about. What, exactly, was the point?
Profile Image for Intellectual_Thighs.
233 reviews331 followers
May 19, 2021
Θυμάστε παλιά, που ήμασταν μωρά και δίναμε υποσχέσεις με τους κολλητούς ότι αν μέχρι τα 30 είμαστε μόνοι, θα ζευγαρώσουμε; Και μετά συνειδητοποιήσαμε ότι στα 30 ακόμα δεν ξέρουμε την τύφλα μας και σιωπηλά το ακυρώναμε; Εσείς. Όχι εγώ. Εγώ παντρεύτηκα. Ε. Φτάνουμε σε μια ηλικία που δίνουμε υποσχέσεις ότι ο ένας θα κάνει ευθανασία στον άλλον αν αρχίσουμε να τα χάνουμε.

Μετά το θάνατο της Μόλλυ, ο Βέρνον και ο Κλάιβ, δύο πρώην εραστές της και πολύ στενοί φίλοι μεταξύ τους, δίνουν αυτή την υπόσχεση. Και αρχίζει ένας καταιγισμός ηθικών διλημμάτων που εμένα με εξάντλησε, όχι γιατί είμαι Ζυγός, αλλά γιατί δυσκολεύομαι πολύ στα σωστά και τα λάθη, βρίσκω παντού επιχειρήματα και τραμπαλίζομαι, πέφτω και τσακίζομαι στις απολυτότητες.

Αν δημοσίευα προσωπικές φωτογραφίες που θα κατέστρεφαν έναν πολιτικό που πίστευα ότι θα βλάψει τη χώρα; Αν αδιαφορούσα για κάποιον που ίσως κινδυνεύει γιατί εκείνη τη στιγμή δημιουργούσα το μάγκνουμ όπους μου; Τι θα ήμουν για εσάς; Θα με καταλαβαίνατε καθόλου;

Είναι φορές που οι φίλοι γίνονται το πανί που κάνουμε την προβολίτσα του υπερεγώ μας, με τη φωνή ή με τη σιωπή τους, μπορούμε τότε να τους αγαπήσουμε και να τους μισήσουμε συγχρόνως, δεν είναι εύκολες οι σχέσεις, σύνθετες πολύ είναι και η φιλία η πιο δυσκολη να τη βγάλει καθαρή.

Το βιβλίο κέρδισε το βραβείο Booker το 1998, δεν έψαξα ποιοι ήταν απέναντι, δεν μου θυμίζει βιβλίο μπούκερ, ίσως ήθελαν να το δώσουν στον ΜακΓιούαν, του το χρώσταγαν, ποιος ξέρει; Χωρίς αυτό να σημαίνει ότι είναι κακό, είναι ένα ωραίο βιβλίο που θα το πρότεινα σε οποιονδήποτε μου ζητούσε ένα έξυπνο βιβλίο για να περάσει καλά, ειδικά για την εποχή του πολύ προχωρημένο, αλλά ίσως αυτό να είναι και το μείον του. Είναι γραμμένο έτσι ώστε ο αναγνώστης να σκεφτεί, ρε τι έγραψε ο κιαρατάς, πώς το γύρισε έτσι η παιχτούρα.

Χωρίς να του λείπουν τα στοιχεία που θα το κάνουν να σε αφορά θέτοντας ερωτήματα, αισθάνομαι ότι δεν προχωρούν σε βάθος, είναι ένα βιβλίο που διαβάζεται για να πάρεις τη χαρά του φύλλου που γυρίζει -το γύρισε σε θρίλερ φορ φαξ σέικ- να δεις τι θα γίνει στη συνέχεια, όχι αυτού που θα σε βυθίσει.

Αν θέλετε όμως να βυθιστείτε, πάρτε με τηλεφωνάκι να σας πω για τη ζωή μου τον τελευταίο χρόνο.
Χα.
Profile Image for Argos.
963 reviews277 followers
October 11, 2018
Kitabın adına aldanmayın. Benim gibi Amsterdam hayranı iseniz hayal kırıklığı olmasın diye belirtiyorum. Kitabın hikayesi sağlam, özel bir kurgusu yok ancak yazarın seller sular gibi akan dili ile çok rahat ve heyecanla okunuyor.
Yazar düşüncelerle olgular arasındaki gel-gitleri, ikilemde kalma, kararsızlık kavramlarını o kadar sade ama anlamlı cümlelerle anlatıyor ki, sanki yazarın hiç edebi kaygısı veya iddiası yokmuş sanılabilir. Aslında çok titizce yazılmış ve çok emek verilmiş cümleler dökülüyor yazarın kaleminden.
Bir politikacıyı gözden düşürmek için onun cinsel tercihini kamuoyu ile paylaşıp paylaşmamak, tacize uğrayan bir kadına olay anında yardım edip etmemek arasındaki gel-gitler etik olarak okuyucunun gözünün içine sokulmadan sorgulanıyor.
Ötanazi konusunda da bir eleştirel dokunma var ki ötanazi yanlısı olmama rağmen yazarın ustalıklı yaklaşımı beni rahatsız etmedi. Kafanızı dinlendirmek, düşünerek beyninizi zonklatmadan keyifle bir kitap okumak isterseniz öneririm.
Profile Image for A. Raca.
714 reviews139 followers
June 3, 2019
"Kendine acıma duygusunun birdenbire soluğunu kesişini, gürültülü bir yetişkin öksürüğünün arkasına sakladı."

McEwan'ın özgün tarzını hep beğeniyorum. Başka bir kitabını da hemen alıp okuma isteği uyandırıyor bende.

Profile Image for Maciek.
558 reviews3,230 followers
January 31, 2011
I gave Amsterdam two stars because it's so short and there's this weird kind of peculiar joy when you read it. Look, 20 pages! 50 pages! Halfway through!
Other than that, it's one of those boring white-collar novels featuring the seemingly enlightening but nonethelessly ponderous, intelectual and philosophical musings of succesful, rich people who live in their big villas and feel sorry for themselves. None of the characters is memorable or likeable, and the novella (it's under 200 pages) never really gains any sort of coherence. I don't think McEwan himself knew what he wanted to do - a nostalgic love story? A social parable? A morality tale? Character study? Bits of these surface, but are swallowed by the meandering and unfocused plot (or what can be described as one) and boring, self-absorbed characters. It's not humorous enough to be funny, not suspenseful to be gripping, and not challenging to be thought provoking. It just is, bland pseudo-intelectual pulp fiction masqueraded as "novel of ideas" that are supposed to be challenging but never really hit the mark. McEwan should have won the Booker for Atonement which is a far, far superior work, moving and memorable. Amsterdam reads fast, but the memories of it evaporate even faster.
Profile Image for Albert.
348 reviews44 followers
January 14, 2022
I had read Atonement and enjoyed it. Amsterdam looked like what I should try out next to see just how much I did or didn’t like Ian McEwan. The GR rating for Amsterdam was intriguing. An award winner, a fairly well-known author, a low average GR rating, as many 2’s as 4’s. I couldn’t help but wonder. And then there was Atonement. I liked Atonement, but didn’t love it the way some did. Maybe Amsterdam would help me to figure out why.

I reached a couple of conclusions. Not answers, perhaps. There is no one to like in Amsterdam, unless you like the despicable. There were no fine, grey lines of morality here for me. I was not confused about how I felt about the characters. Some readers like to read about characters they like or admire, or at least need to have one or two characters in a story that meet those criteria. I am okay with not liking the characters. I often find those I don’t like as interesting as those I do like. So that was not a reason for me to not like Amsterdam. In fact, I really liked Amsterdam, more so than Atonement, and one of the reasons was because the characters were so easy to dislike, and yet so well drawn they were easy to imagine.

Another similarity I noticed between Atonement and Amsterdam: there were aspects of the unbelievable mixed with a story that otherwise seemed very realistic. I noticed from the reviews that this really bothered some. Both novels break the believability spell, at least for me. If you are reading something that seems not dissimilar to the world in which you live and then at some point characteristics are introduced that make it unbelievable, how do you react. That is very different from reading something that intended from page 1 to be a different world or that is expecting you to stretch your imagination throughout. It feels almost mixed genre, and some like their genres straight.

So where does that leave me and this book. I thought story and the characters were great. I was flipping pages. I liked this crash of morality issues that leaves you wondering if there was a message and if so what it was. Now that I have a little better grip on the mix of the realistic with the hard to swallow I at least know what I feel I am reacting to and why. It is a technique. I admire its use. It's intriguing to me. I think I will leave it at that for now.
Author 3 books10 followers
November 19, 2008
I tried to read McEwan's Enduring Love, was bored by a little too much phoned-in prose, and ended up reading Amsterdam instead, because it sat on the shelf of my rental, between The Lovely Bones and a Harlequin Intrigue sampler.

In retrospect, that was about right. What the hell, Amsterdam. I read you in two days, like you were a Hardy Boys book. You are about eight pages long, and part of the thrill of reading you was glancing up and being like "I'm 25% of the way through! I'm halfway already! Look at me go!"

Amsterdam stands at a strange point, as the most instantly engrossing and by far the cheapest McEwan book I've read. It's difficult to reconcile the happy raptness with which I turned its pages (nearly twelve words on each!) with its total flimsiness next to Atonement, or even The Cement Garden. But I had to get to the very ridiculous end before my inner monologue of "pffff!" become really, overwhelmingly audible, and for that I submit that Amsterdam is a work of master craftsmanship, and loosely recommendable as such. Basically, it fooled me, but I want to unravel its veteran tricks, and the excitement of its false promise was rare enough that, even when confronted by the letdown of its ultimate tackiness, I still feel kind of fondly toward it.
Profile Image for Paul Haspel.
530 reviews55 followers
July 30, 2022
Amsterdam is one of my favorite cities, and Ian McEwen's 1998 novel Amsterdam is a deft and interesting little novel - even though a first-time reader might be forgiven for wondering, for a time, why a book that seems so thoroughly British is named after the largest city in the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The setting is late-1990's London, and the book's action centers around the friendship and eventual enmity of two middle-aged Londoners who came of age during the Swinging Sixties and find themselves making critical career and life decisions as the millennium draws toward its end.

The first of these men, Clive Linley, is a successful composer; while his work has been criticized by some as being overly traditionalist and even "premodern," he has been commissioned to write an official millennial symphony. His pride in this task, his belief that he may finally have achieved greatness as a composer, and his absolute dedication to his art take up much of his reflections.

The second of these men, Vernon Halliday, is the editor of a London newspaper, the Judge, that faces declining circulation and is pressured to adopt the tabloids' strategies in order to survive. Vernon sees himself as a tough-minded journalist who knows what must be done if the paper is to continue publishing, and dismisses as "grammarians" those who deplore the idea of abandoning the Judge's tradition of strict, Times-style propriety for the sake of solvency.

Clive and Vernon meet at the funeral of a woman named Molly; she was a spontaneous and free-spirited woman, until the onset of a sudden and unexpected illness took away her physical and mental self-sufficiency and eventually her life. Both Clive and Vernon were once lovers of Molly, and the suddenness with which she became ill and died shakes both men sufficiently that they make a pact that becomes important later in the novel.

Before that, however, both characters face crucial moral choices. Vernon comes into possession of compromising photographs of a far-right politician whose policies Vernon opposes, and must choose whether to publish them. Clive, while hiking in the Lake District in search of inspiration for the finale for his symphony, observes a man and a woman engaged in what could be a domestic argument or could be the prelude to an assault against the woman, and must decide whether to intervene.

Clive's and Vernon's choices have consequences beyond what either man anticipated, and set the two old friends on a path toward hostility, feelings of grievance, and thoughts of revenge. So far, so good. But the manner in which McEwan resolved this tangled dramatic situation did not work for me. Without going into details, I will simply say that the climax and resolution involve a degree of dramatic irony and poetic justice that "out-O. Henry's" O. Henry. Perhaps McEwan re-read "The Gift of the Magi" a little too soon before writing this book. Fifteen pages before the end, one particular detail made me think to myself, "No. He can't be planning on ending the book that way." But he did.

And yet the novel has many beauties that still make me glad to have read it. McEwen's literary style is graceful and elegant; his picture of late-20th-century British life is dead-on. The dialogue is trenchant, and the book's descriptive passages are often poetic. One example of McEwen's excellence in descriptive writing occurs when this book called Amsterdam finally reaches Amsterdam, where Clive's symphony is scheduled for a performance. Here is McEwen's description of the impression that Amsterdam makes upon Clive just after the composer arrives in the city:

The flight was two hours late into Schiphol airport. Clive took the train to Centraal Station and from there set off on foot for his hotel in the soft gray afternoon light. While he was crossing his first bridge, it came back to him what a calm and civilized city Amsterdam was. He took a wide detour westward in order to stroll along Brouwersgracht....So consoling, to have a body of water down the middle of a street. Such a tolerant, open-minded, grown-up sort of place: the beautiful brick and carved timber warehouses converted into tasteful apartments, the modest Van Gogh bridges, the understated street furniture, the intelligent, unstuffy-looking Dutch on their bikes with their level-headed children sitting behind. Even the shopkeepers looked like professors, the street sweepers like jazz musicians. There was never a city more rationally ordered. (p. 168)

I found this book in Amsterdam, at the American Book Center, a large and excellent English-language bookstore in the heart of the city, and am glad finally to have read Amsterdam. It is a quick and rewarding read. But you may want to take a break 25 or 30 pages before the end and decide how you would have resolved the conflict between Clive and Vernon. Your answer to that question may be different from Ian McEwan's.
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1,769 reviews203 followers
January 30, 2022
Music In Amsterdam

Ian McEwan's novel "Amsterdam" begins with the death of a married woman named Molly Lane who has had many lovers. Among her lovers are Clive Linely, a successful British composer, Vernon Halliday, the editor of a formerly highbrow but failing paper called The Judge, and Julian Garamony, a foreign secretary with even higher political aspirations. The story revolves around the relationships of Linely, Halliday, and Garamony, and their ties to Molly.

Each of the three men is involved in a moral crisis. Linely is working on a symphony he hopes will prove his masterpiece when he has to decide whether to interfere in what may be a rape. Halliday has to decide whether to compromise his failing paper by publishing sexually explicit and compromising pictures of Garamony that Molly had taken. Linely and Halliday sign a euthanasia pact and then quarrel over the moral choices each man must face.

The book is slender, elegant, and, alas, superficial. It is pleasant to read but lacks depth. The most interesting part of the book for me is the interest the author shows in music through the composer Linely. Music became the focus of my attention in the book, even though Linely is basically arrogant and mediocre and only one of three or four characters that figure in the tangled plot.

At the outset of "Amsterdam", Linely is writing a commissioned symphony to celebrate the millennium but is experiencing difficulty in finishing the work and in finding an appropriately lyrical theme to end the last movement. He wants a theme that will capture both the horrors of the 20th Century and mankind's hopes and aspirations for the future -- shades of the Beethoven Ninth in more ways than one. Also like Beethoven, Linely derives inspiration from nature. To find an environment enabling him to complete his symphony, Linely takes a break to visit a wild, lonely place where he witnesses an apparent rape. Linely fancies himself a genius -- which he is not -- and displays something of an imitation of Beethoven's attitude and work habits -- such as the trip to nature. Of course this is hardly the first time a musician has defined himself in reference to Beethoven.

Other works of Linely are mentioned in the course of the novel as are other composers. Linely has set a series of poems called "rage" by an American beat named Hart Pullman. (Hart has also slept with Molly in his younger days.) He has written a piece which was performed only once called "Symphonic Dervishes for Virtuoso Strings." Linely has also written a book called "Reading Beauty" which claims that blues, rock, jazz, and folk have been the truly innovative music of the 20th Century.

One critic dubs Linely the "thinking man's Gorecki" and then recants to call Gorecki the "thinking man's Linely." Gorecki is a mid-20th century composer whose third symphony ("Lamentations") has won deserved fame. There are references to English composers such as Britten, Williams and Purcell. At one point, when his own symphony is about to be trashed, Linely expresses disdain for concertgoers attending a program of Schubert. "Hadn't the world heard enough from syphilitic Schubert?" Linely asks.

I was taken with the discussion of music in the book much more than with the plot and with the egoism, arrogance, and lust that the characters convey. The author has many interesting things to say about music even though they are basically said in passing. Altogether, this is an entertaining book but little more. The novel's treatment of music for me is the tail that wags the dog.

Robin Friedman
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247 reviews1 follower
December 21, 2020
No one escapes this novel unscathed--not the individual characters nor the larger societal groups they represent: politicians, artists, journalists. Everyone is lambasted and all of humanity is seen as self-serving, self-deceptive, and lying. This misanthropic pessimism, however, is dished up with such wit, beauty of language, and precision of observation that its seismic cynicism didn’t totally bother me until the catastrophic and nihilistic ending.

The book asks important questions -- Can the art created by an individual override their personal flaws? Can public figures have personal flaws/quirks and still have successful careers? What is the proper role of media? What brings meaning to an individual’s life? Is the way we perceive ourselves accurate?--then answers them with a resounding, disturbing, “There is no hope!”

One uncynical, untainted character representing the moral center and some form of soul-nurturing creativity might have helped this disturbing yet darkly entertaining book leave less of a bad aftertaste.

A pleasure to read, unsettling to contemplate upon.
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