Author: Ian McEwan (1998)
jusco’s Rating: ★★1/2
Having only read one other book by Ian McEwan prior to this (Atonement: read my review of it here), I was unsure of what to expect from Amsterdam. I had chosen it as the next Ian McEwan novel to read, solely based on the fact that it had won the Man Booker Prize in 1998, but unfortunately after picking it up, stumbled upon a number of reviews that classified it as “his weakest work” and “only winning a Booker Prize as consolation for his previously written outstanding novels.” With this in mind, I began reading with low expectations, a bit wary for what lay in store for me.
However, I found it to be a good read, maybe not up to the level of Atonement and his other books (which I hope to read in the near future), but decent enough and well-written to garner my interest. It is a novella (slightly shorter than a novel, coming in at under 200 pages), centered on three men, all previously ex-lovers of Molly, who passed away at the beginning of the novel. What kicks off from her funeral is a continually heightened tension and feeling of distrust between the three, leading to corrupted actions and eventually a drastic tragedy.
There are no characters to be liked here. Each character is heartless, full of himself and extremely self-conceited. This was not a book I could relate myself with and remark at every other page, “Oh! I understand what he’s going through, and I’m going to cheer him on. I would dearly like to see him succeed in the end.”
But this is a tale of morality, of human’s evil intentions and thoughts. And ultimately, what Ian McEwan must have wanted to achieve, was to allow the reader to have a third-person view of the story, to observe and shake heads in disgust. Though it may not be a very satisfying novel to read (trust me, you won’t feel good at all), Ian McEwan once again demonstrates his brilliance of writing and crafting of sentences. And what he achieves is this: to show us just how depraved and shallow human beings can be.