Review: Sweet Tooth — Ian McEwan

Read: 7
To Go: 93

Book List:
1. The Reader — Bernhard Schlink
2. The Pilot’s Wife — Anita Shreve
3. Creatures of Light and Darkness — Roger Zelazny
4. What We All Long For — Dionne Brand
5. The Guilty Plea — Robert Rotenberg
6. Stray Bullets — Robert Rotenberg
7. Sweet Tooth — Ian McEwan

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Happy Reading Week! Now that I have a week off, I’m trying to spend my time reading more, and (of course) actually doing all the homework I have. I think it’ll be a difficult balance to strike, but if I can read a couple of books this week to bring me up to speed on the challenge, I’ll be happy.

In Sweet Tooth, Serena Frome, a beautiful mathmatician, falls into a job at MI5 after having an affair with an older man. She’s quickly promoted and given a task under an initiative called Sweet Tooth, to nurture a promising young writer named Tom Haley, whose apparent anti-Communist views MI5 appreciates. First she loves his stories, and then she begins to love the man, meanwhile struggling to maintain the fictional life she’s created to shield Haley from the truth.

Sweet Tooth strikes the perfect balance between a love story and an espionage thriller, infused throughout with rich details of 1970s London, and how the city was influenced by the Cold War, Irish terrorism, and economic instability. It also offers a clear, but subtle, portrayal of institutionalized sexism rampant at the time, like how Serena is considered to blame for driving a superior to end his engagement, especially when she refuses his attentions. But what I really appreciated was the first person point of view: not a lot of novels do it, but I always enjoy it. McEwan’s first-person narrative brought me that much closer to Serena, her life, and her troubles. And not all men can write a female character well, but McEwan does.

I wanted to read Sweet Tooth since I saw it in stores, because of its compelling plot, but I was hesitant to do so: I’m only familiar with Ian McEwan as the author of Atonement, which I famously hated, and I didn’t know if Sweet Tooth would be more of the same. I’m glad I took the chance, because it was a masterpiece. I was spellbound from the first page to the final words.

Next book: The Lost Wife by Alyson Richman

– Kelsey

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One thought on “Review: Sweet Tooth — Ian McEwan

  1. I’m interested in reading that. Sorry to hear that you hated Atonement, but my experiences with Ian McEwan’s books are all good…I’ve read Atonement and Amsterdam and I liked both book. With him, you can expect the unexpected.

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