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Black Dogs

3.43  ·  Rating details ·  8,119 Ratings  ·  545 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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I have read many Ian McEwans, and I am always divided whether I like them or not. There is a witty analysis of contemporary life that appeals to me, put into occasionally brilliant prose. There are characters with interesting traits, and plots that usually have an abrupt twist in the end.

It uses to be an entertaining and quick reading experience between heavier, more thought-provoking and more linguistically challenging (and satisfying) classics or historical nonfiction.

But this was below par, e
Jan 08, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 1970-present, prose
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
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
Jul 11, 2007 rated it it was ok
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
Apr 16, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: ebook, menace

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
Aug 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Friederike Knabe
Jul 27, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: uk-lit
"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
Ana  Vlădescu
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
Jul 10, 2014 rated it it was ok
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
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.
Paul Bryant
Jan 03, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: novels
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
Bob Mustin
Mar 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
May 20, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Dina Goluza
Jan 06, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1001-read, 2017
"Zlo o kome govorim živi u svima nama. Uzme maha u pojedincu, u ličnim životima, unutar porodice, i upravo deca najviše pate. I onda, kada su uslovi povoljni, u različitim zemljama, u različitim vremenima, užasno surovo bukne zloba protiv života, i svi su iznenađeni dubinom mržnje u sebi. Onda potone i čeka. To je nešto u našem srcu."
Marco Tamborrino
Domani mi sarò già dimenticato di cosa parla.
Feb 12, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: boxalls-1001
This is quite possibly the longest 174-page book I have ever read. Really! I am not joking.

It is well written with excellent characters... however, it is slow and even harder going for me than an Iris Murdoch novel. I do like Atonement by the same author, but I can only give this one 3 stars..

The story could have been much more engaging. In a way, it's like a Kate Morton story without the heart.
Apr 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
The narrator of Black Dogs, Jeremy lost his parents at 8 years old, latches onto his friends' parents, then his wife's. The story takes place during the Berlin Wall, November 1989. Jeremy is fascinated by his Wife's parents and their unusual relationship: they love one another, but are unable to live together. Their extreme ideologies make it difficult to live together. This is another McEwan that I really liked
Jun 21, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: romanzi, gb
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 24, 2008 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 02, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: 1001-books
Short, quite interesting. Doesn't really stand out in any major way.

Perhaps the same thing can be said about this review?

Oh alright! The books Black Dogs are hinted at being physical manifestations of humanities capability for evil. One of the characters in this book confronts these two horrible beasts during an idyllic walk through the French countryside. Although through the use of cunning and violence she manages to drive them away, the experience affects her deeply and changes her life outlo
Edwin Priest
Dec 20, 2016 rated it liked it
Black Dogs is a complex and deep tale in which McEwan explores relationships, marriage and love, all the while craftily blending it into a Europe recovering from WWII. There is darkness and beauty, and love and evil, all melded in a dense but melodic and hard to penetrate package. 3-1/2 stars, rounded down to 3 because it just didn't seem to compel me.
Nov 10, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Un racconto lungo sulle dinamiche di un matrimonio complesso, un rapporto a due che nasce su una base comune d'attrazione e di fede politica, ma che si disgrega dopo un'esperienza toccante, che allontana completamente le visioni di marito e moglie, incapaci di rimanere insieme, ma anche di separarsi definitivamente. Il tutto viene osservato dall'occhio attento del genero, orfano fin da bambino, che trova nell'interesse verso i genitori della moglie una sorta di surrogato affettivo alla sua manca ...more
Feb 17, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: contemporary
Po Pokání a Betonové zahradě pro mě Černí psi znamenali docela zklamání. McEwan psát umí, ale prostě mě to nezaujalo, ani postavy mi k srdci nepřirostly a podruhé tuhle knížku číst určitě nebudu.
Sep 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
I picked up Black Dogs at a used book store and was happy to find an Ian McEwan book there. Obviously very well written although transparent in places, this is not my favorite of his, but it was still very good. This is an outsider’s, if you consider a son-in-law as an outsider, view of a marriage enmeshed in philosophical differences. Jeremy is Bernard and June’s son-in-law and he appears more concerned with and interested in them, particularly June, than their biological children. Jeremy has b ...more
Mar 01, 2010 rated it liked it
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
Rachelle Urist
Aug 15, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
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
Jun 15, 2009 rated it really liked it
I'd been wanting to read something by Ian Mcewan and this was one of the shorter books and I saw; also, the premise sounded interesting. Without revealing much about the story, it follows a man writing a memoir about his parents-in-law. The mother-in-law is a mystic/believer and the father-in-law is a rationalist/atheist/former communist. The book involves a struggle between this husband and wife and their differing ideologies. Mcewan is an amazing writer and while the book was fairly slow it ke ...more
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  • Chatterton
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  • The Untouchable
  • The Folding Star
  • England, England
  • Indigo
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  • The Dressmaker
  • Carry Me Down
  • The Lover
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 about Ian McEwan...
“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.” 95 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.” 5 likes
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