Amsterdam (Book)

Updated June 26, 2020 | Infoplease Staff
Author: Ian McEwan
Publisher: Doubleday

At first it seems defocused, sighting too broad a spectrum of meaning. But as Ian McEwan's Booker Prize-winning novel progresses, it accumulates into an articulate telos penned with artistry, insight, and not a small amount of dread. Thus it resembles the novel as a whole. In its barest form, Amsterdam is an extended consideration of two moral decisions-one, committed by composer Clive Linley, seemingly private; the other, a massively public act by Vernon Halliday, editor of a national British daily. “Here was a rare sight below the waves, of a man's privacy and turmoil,” writes McEwan of an intimate photograph in a passage that holds resonance for the entire book, “of his dignity upended by the overpowering necessity of pure fantasy, pure thought, by the irreducible human element-mind.” Vivacious socialite Molly Lane was lover, at one time or another, to all four of the book's main antiheroes. Amsterdam opens with her funeral, for which all the novel's players have assembled. McEwan's men are sounded out against the quiet echo of Molly's untimely absence. A skilled storyteller, he melds perfect pacing, efficient detail, and exquisite control over the dual trajectories of Clive and Vernon. Moral culpability weighs heavily upon these long-time friends who eventually arrive in Amsterdam to face the very limits of their humanity in this graceful, mature tale.

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