Wednesday, May 14, 2008


Amsterdam by Ian McEwan was originally published in 1998. My paperback copy is 193 pages long. Amsterdam won the Booker Prize for 1998. I enjoyed this little book very much. While not like Atonement, it is a well written tale. McEwan is in complete control of the streamlined plot and the story. It is both amusing and thought provoking. It is in equal parts comedy and tragedy. I highly recommend Amsterdam. Rating: 4

Synopsis from back cover:

On a chilly February day, two old friends meet in the throng outside a 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; 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 neither has 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."

"As they strolled up and down, the two old friends resumed the conversation that had had in various forms a half-dozen times before but that gave them rather more comfort than signing 'Pilgrim'." pg. 4

"It had been awhile since he had met a politician close up, and what he had forgotten was the eye movements, the restless patrol for new listeners or defectors, or the proximity of some figure of higher status, or some other main chance that might slip by." pg. 15

"Understanding a line of melody was a complex mental act, but it was one that even an infant could perform; we were born into an inheritance, we were Homo musicus; defining beauty in music must therefore entail a definition of human nature, which brought us back to the humanities and communicativeness..." pg. 25

"Vernon sensed that the younger man had followed him in to talk, for a lifetime's experiences had taught him that a male journalist did not urinate easily, or by preference, in the presence of his editor." pg.. 41-42

"It was also useful to remember that his fortune, his publishing "empire," was rooted in an energetic exploitation of the weak-headed: hidden numerical codes in the Bible foretold the future, the Incas hailed from outer space, the Holy Grail, the Ark of the Covenant, the Second Coming, the Seventh Seal, Hitler was alive and well in Peru." pg. 56

"He wanted the anonymity of the city again, and the confinement of his studio, and - he had been thinking about this scrupulously - surely it was excitement that made him feel this way, not shame." pg. 97

"In a language as idiomatically stressed as English, opportunities for misreadings are bound to arise. By a mere backward movement of stress, a verb can become a noun, an act a thing." pg. 161

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