Palimpsest  

Go Back   Palimpsest > Reviews > Book Reviews

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
Old 7th Mar 2005, 15:38   #31
John Self
Administrator
suffers from smallness of vision
 
John Self's Avatar
 
Join Date: 27 Jun 2003
Location: Belfast
Posts: 15,939
Default

Re Tim Lott: I see at least one Palimpsester is prepared to defend White City Blue to the hilt.
__________________
Reading Vasily Grossman, Life and Fate | Asylum | Book List
John Self is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 16th Mar 2005, 20:06   #32
Oryx
Palimpsestarian
eats too much cheese
 
Join Date: 26 Nov 2004
Location: Toronto
Posts: 1,282
Default

Hello All:-

Just finished reading the exchange on conversations re Atonement, which I though was absolutely brilliant. For a really first rate analysis of the novel, go here:

http://www.csulb.edu/~bhfinney/McEwan.html

Pretty long, but very interesting, especially for those of you interested in postmodernism.

Orxy
__________________
currently reading: The Secret History, Donna Tartt
Oryx is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 1st Jun 2005, 10:56   #33
John Self
Administrator
suffers from smallness of vision
 
John Self's Avatar
 
Join Date: 27 Jun 2003
Location: Belfast
Posts: 15,939
Default

Am reposting Jerkass's comments on Atonement from the Palimplist Conversations thread here (as requested by him), mainly because I wanted to respond to them briefly.

Quote:
Atonement...well...realizing that I'm treading dangerous ground, since the man seems universally worshipped, I'll start by saying that I didn't have the benefit/handicap of having read (and loved) all of his other work before reading this one.

The short version of my review would be that Mr. McEwan had some very interesting ideas for Atonement, and he did some interesting strategic planning for it. Now, if he just would have left out 80% of the material, it would have made a fantastic short story.

The entire Dunkirk section? Yes, maybe 6-10 pages would have told us everything we needed to know. The rest was just a demonstration of what I suspect was some excellent research into Dunkirk.

The description of Emily Tallis's migraine that HP highlighted in another thread about Ian McEwan? Yes, fantastically well done. Added absolutely nothing to the story other than another 10 unnecessary pages, but it was a fantastic description.

Hearing that McEwan struggled with this one is no surprise to me, honestly. The entire thing struck me as a good idea that just didn't work out in execution. Somewhere in there were bits of an excellent story, filled out by extensive bits I would refer to as 'masturbatory' if not in the company of ladies.

I could almost hear the publisher on the phone: "Yes, Ian--another 100 pages by next Thursday, that's right. I know, I know, you keep saying that--it doesn't matter if it isn't very good--people will buy it anyway. You're Ian McEwan. Well...look...don't you have all of that Dunkirk research you did about eight years ago? Couldn't you fit that in there somewhere and turn that into 100 pages or so? Yeah, try that. Great."

Now, realizing that everyone else on here loved this one, I'm happy for anyone to tell me what I'm missing.

I'll also admit that I might have enjoyed this better if I had read it at another time.

All in all, like I said: it would have been a brilliant short story with 80% of the material missing. I at least could see that McEwan wasn't hopeless, and I might enjoy something else he had written.

I'll see if I have time to put together a bigger review--or maybe one of our administrators can just copy this over to the Ian McEwan thread at some point.
I just wanted to add that I think that Atonement is one of those rare books where the subject and form are so closely allied that to attempt to disengage them is a mistake. So when Jerkass talks of the 'story' and the 'description' as though they are separable elements, I would disagree. Without wishing to spoil it for anyone who hasn't read it, the essence of Atonement is in the way the story is being told and, most importantly, by whom. We don't properly find that out until the very end, and when I read it first of all I noticed several little inconsistencies in the first part which caused me some irritation - and then realised at the very end that they were not only deliberate but essential.

This is not to say that Atonement is something that so clearly sprang from the womb fully formed that it is uncriticisable, but I do think that McEwan has thought it all through carefully enough to know that when he takes 10 pages to describe Emily's migraine, it tells us not only about Emily but about the (invisible, at that stage) narrator - and ditto for the Dunkirk stuff. The story in Atonement, I feel, is not only in the narrative story but in the narrative itself. If that makes sense.

All this is said in the weak memory of having read it three years ago or so. Oh and incidentally, I don't think a prior appreciation of McEwan is essential or even helpful in liking Atonement. I had read most of his books before this, but hadn't liked any of them even remotely as much as this; and had disliked a few of them.
__________________
Reading Vasily Grossman, Life and Fate | Asylum | Book List
John Self is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 1st Jun 2005, 11:58   #34
HP
Senior Palimpsester
suckles at the teat of the Palim-God
 
Join Date: 2 Dec 2004
Posts: 2,929
Default

Beautifully argued, Mr Self - as always. I must confess I couldn't help but wince at some of J/A's comments because Atonement, for me, represented a very talented writer at his peak. His mastery of the English language is such that there were several passages that made me catch my breath and brought shivers to the spine. Hearing choir boys at York Minster has much the same effect, but to provoke such a response with words alone, is some feat. Only writing of the finest calibre manages that. And I must get picky here, too - although I suspect I inadvertently gave the wrong impression. You see, Jerkass said:

Quote:
Hearing that McEwan struggled with this one is no surprise to me, honestly. The entire thing struck me as a good idea that just didn't work out in execution. Somewhere in there were bits of an excellent story, filled out by extensive bits I would refer to as 'masturbatory' if not in the company of ladies.
But, McEwan didn't struggle with it all. In fact, the first section, where all the action takes place in the country house, according to McEwan, just fell upon the page without any effort or strife. Given that it contains some of the most insightful and deliciously lyrical passages to be found anywhere – I have no trouble in believing him.. As John has just said so succinctly, those details that left J/A cold, discarded as mere description, are sublimely eloquent and very moving insights into the hearts and minds of his key characters. It was some of the later stuff - although he didn't specify which particular bits - that gave him grief. But I would think most authors struggle somewhere in the creative process, no matter how skilled or accomplished. And whatever difficulties he encountered, McEwan's struggle is still a lesser man’s triumph.

As to the story content – well, I sort of know where Jerkass is coming from on this. The plotline is very cleverly concealed from the reader at first – and if you’re a plot and action fan, then here you have to be rather more patient. But the plot is all there, all right. And what a plot it is, too. Nothing shallow or mere game playing, but the demonstration of how our actions, driven by spurious and self-serving motives, can wreck the lives of others; how one silly lie can have devastating consequences that rebound throughout the years. The human condition is ever a complicated and fascinating one and McEwan seeks to throw a little more light on our fragile ego and its demands -and for my money, at least, succeeds wonderfully. Besides, the subtle, masterful way McEwan gradually makes all things clear was good enough to make me want to read it all over again - not only for the fabulous craftsmanship of his writing, but to catch those small but telling pieces of evidence that, as JS points out, strike you as inconsistencies on first reading.

But as I’ve mentioned before, this book is not for reading in a rush and you need to be in the right frame of mind to enjoy it to its full, I think. I really couldn’t get into it at all on my first attempt – was in too much of a rush and greedy for a payoff right at the start. The second time the sheer beauty and finesse of McEwan’s writing wove its fabulous spell and I succumbed and was hopelessly enthralled. Sometimes, the finer things in life – and I’d class Atonement as one of the finest – need a little patience. Find the time, find the patience and revel ….!
HP is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 1st Jun 2005, 14:13   #35
Jerkass
Palimpsestarian
eats too much cheese
 
Jerkass's Avatar
 
Join Date: 16 Dec 2003
Location: USA
Posts: 1,289
Default

And I still insist that my lack of enjoyment of this one was not due to any critical character flaw on my part, HP.
__________________
"I learned never to drink anything out of a jar labeled 'w-i-s-k-i.'"
Jerkass is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 1st Jun 2005, 14:26   #36
HP
Senior Palimpsester
suckles at the teat of the Palim-God
 
Join Date: 2 Dec 2004
Posts: 2,929
Default

Ooh, sir - thou art a one. A right royal one, at that! Have I ever suggested it was? Nah! But I am working on the assumption that if I bore you silly enough with such lavish praise for this work, you'll succumb to a second reading just to prove I'm wrong - only to discover the treasures within.

As for not liking a book that everyone else thinks great, proving someone is one chapter short of a novel, look no further than me. Cloud Atlas, which has been lauded to the Palimpcestial skies left me absolutely cold. Clever? - yes. Well-written? - absurdly so. Innovative? - spot bloody on. But enjoyable ? So enjoyable that I couldn't even be bothered to finish it properly, scanning the second half in a race to put the damn thing behind me. So I guess that makes me a chapter, prologue and epilogue short of a novel, eh?

Er - no. On second thoughts don't answer that .....
HP is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 1st Jun 2005, 14:35   #37
Mike
Junior Palimpsestarian
is a Regular
 
Join Date: 18 Aug 2004
Location: Walsall
Posts: 113
Default

I was going to post this seperately but I suppose it would be best here - as I say without spoilers its practically impossible to adequately discuss Enduring Love. As for White City Blue it must stand on its own merits and it does - as a reader of mostly contempory novels few manage to get the correct "feel" in my nonest opinion.

Enduring Love

This was a strangely disturbing book about obsession, I notice too that it has been recently been made into a film. It would be hard to write too much about it without giving away key parts in the plot. Set in modern times it concerns the aftermath of a tragic ballooning accident, a growing obsessive desire and finally near tragedy. Well written with plenty of red herrings right from the start it leaves you guessing all the way through. The characters are a little annoying and often made me angry but that’s got to be the mark of a well-written plot! It does appear to change up a gear in almost every chapter although at one point it does teeter on the absurd. It's certainly a different take on the stalker story from the usual TV angle and it does get a little disturbing even if it does go right up to the edge of absurdity. I should be interested to see how this converted to the screen whether or not it really captures the grim paranoia that grows throughout the narrative. I liked this a lot and it had plenty of contemporary references to make it fresh and modern - its not perfect by any means and the ending is not what I would have expected but it was certainly entertaining. Short and to the point then - a good read with lots of plot twists that will keep you guessing!.
Mike is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 24th Jul 2005, 12:06   #38
m.
Palimpsestarian
eats too much cheese
 
m.'s Avatar
 
Join Date: 22 Nov 2003
Location: Poland
Posts: 1,300
Default

Even though I haven't read anything by McEwan yet, I really liked this interview in The Morning News.
m. is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 17th Sep 2005, 13:21   #39
Stewart
Once known as Blixa
takes it to extremes
 
Stewart's Avatar
 
Join Date: 26 May 2005
Location: Glasgow
Posts: 6,884
Send a message via MSN to Stewart
Default

Just my thoughts on Saturday:

Ian McEwan’s Saturday is the story of Henry Perowne, a London based neurosurgeon, as he reflects on his life via the events that happen during his day off. Mixing organised chores with random incidents, the novel provides a great character study, one of a man coming to terms with his advancing years, although the book is low on action.

One morning, Perowne wakes early to witness an aviation accident, which troubles him throughout the day. As the day progresses he makes love to his wife, gets involved in a traffic accident, gets beat at squash, buys fish, visits his sick mother, listens to his son’s band perform, argues politics with his poetess daughter, and settles down for a family meal in the evening. While all this happens, the London march against the impending war in Iraq gathers momentum.

The characters are extremely well done with the exception, perhaps, of Daisy, Perowne’s daughter, who simply argues her anti-war stance and hides her own little secret. Daisy and Theo, his son, are, unlike their father, creative souls, and at the age where they are ready to flee the nest. Baxter, the novel’s main antagonist, is a young man rendered emotionally unstable by a degenerative brain disease, embarrassed by his condition yet unable to prevent its detriment to his life. And Perowne, through all this, meditates on everything, no matter how seemingly insignificant, and the author presents him as emotionally ambivalent man; a man slow to take sides, but always willing to consider the wider picture.

The plot is small but the emotional and philosophical conclusions drawn from each observation or incident serves to complete the picture of Henry Perowne’s day. In the evening, Baxter returns to cause havoc with the surgeon’s family, a scaled down metaphor for the impending invasion of Iraq being an example of how one event, no matter how minimal, can lead to big changes in one’s life.

Overall, McEwan has crafted a novel worthy of praise, but its meditative assault can be overwhelming at times; the use of neurosurgical terms is difficult for the layman, but our protagonist is a neurosurgeon so it’s more than appropriate. It’s certainly relevant to the current political climate, and probably serves as a slightly autobiographical account of McEwan’s feelings as his own family grows up and becomes independent. Saturday is worth the read, for an interesting study of making sense of the world, and of growing old; or, as Perowne says, Saturday will become Sunday.
__________________
Reading: Concrete Island, J.G. Ballard| flickr | blog | world lit | beer
Stewart is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 21st Nov 2005, 12:19   #40
Wavid
Administrator
befriends strangers
 
Wavid's Avatar
 
Join Date: 10 Apr 2003
Location: Lincolnshire
Posts: 4,553
Send a message via AIM to Wavid Send a message via MSN to Wavid Send a message via Yahoo to Wavid Send a message via Skype™ to Wavid
Default Re: Ian McEwan

One of the few advantages of spending a large amount of time in hospital, even, as I was, as a visitor, is that you get plenty of reading done, especially if your patient is asleep a lot.

One of the books I raced through over the weekend was Amsterdam, which I enjoyed quite a lot. I gave it in my Palimplist, which seems a little perverse when you consider that was the same mark that a Simon Kernick got, but there we are. I felt, unusually for me, that it was too short, I think there was enough in the plot to keep it going to at least the 200 page mark.

But then there is also a part of me that thinks that this really was just an extended short story and that the notion that the two main characters would hatch the same plan at the same time was a little daft. As a short story, he could have got away with the fact that the build up to this incident didn't really seem sufficient; but I felt a little short changed and that he really could have spent more time on how the two men reached this, frankly, insane conclusion.

But I still liked it, and enjoyed the writing immensley. I'm going to stick to finishing off unfinished books and the odd shortie till the new year now, but reading Amsterdam has put Atonement up as one of my first reads for 2006.
__________________
Site Admin | Blog | Reading List | Email | Current Reading: The Sportswriter, Richard Ford
Wavid is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply


Currently Active Users Viewing This Thread: 1 (0 members and 1 guests)
 
Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT +1. The time now is 3:53.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2017, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.