"I was irritated by the way he conflated his own shifting needs
with an impersonal destiny.
I want it, therefore...it's in the stars!
What was it with men, that they found elementary logic so difficult?"
--Ian McEwan, Sweet Tooth
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Publisher: Nan A. Telese, 320 pages
Release Date: August 23rd, 2012
Ok, so I have to admit, I was a little in reserve about starting this. I have had such a run of young adult literature that when I delve back into the adult fiction world I get a little nervous. Will I get into it? Will it be paced fast enough to keep me interested? It turns out my hesitation was completed unfounded. Books like Sweet Tooth make me yearn for more books like it. I have previously only read Atonement by Ian McEwan and fell in love with it. Upon finding out that his new book had his first female narrator since Atonement I was immediately intrigued...then I found out that it takes place during the Cold War and is centered around a woman working for MI5 with a secret mission...um, okay! And there's a quick summary of the book. Serena's mission, she does choose to accept it, is to persuade a young author to accept a salary through a fake organization that is secretly backed the British government in order to urge people away from communism through the form of literatue. Example: like 1984 and Animal Farm. The author is obviously unaware where the funding comes from. Serena and said author eventually initiate an affair, which complicates things ever further for her...more than that, you'll have to read to find out.
The book started out catching my interest. The narration is excellent, you can hear the voice of Serena immediately. The setting of the 1960s into 1970s is wonderful. I could picture the smart suits of women and hear the clicking of the high heels down the corridors of the office. And the cover is partially the reason for that. I love it! The whole cinematographic feel of the dulled colors and sepia undertones just looks so vintage 1970s. I really just love to stare at it...anyways...
The story takes us from a brief introduction to Serena's childhood into her affair with an older professor who eventually helps secure her a position with MI5, from there she gets her mission. The story has a leisurely pace to it but I never found myself bored. I loved being thrown into London 1972 with Serena even through her most mundane tasks. She is a lover of books and devours novels like it's nothing, so immediately I was drawn to her character. She wears her heart on her sleeve, is quick to please her authorities, and yearns for approval. She is trying to find her niche in life and the story has only a hint of coming of age which I really liked. Her descriptions of the men in her life were honest but, to a point, hilarious sometimes. Intimate details about her lovers had me laughing out loud, I do not know if this was the intention of the author but it provided hints of comic relief that I thoroughly enjoyed.
The writing of the story, for the most part, is brilliant. Beautiful prose and I really got a feel for the setting and the emotions involved with each location in regards to Serena's feelings about them. There are several passages that discuss at length political policy at the time and to be honest I was lost. I tried to pay attention and figure out what they were talking about but politics is not my forte so upon realizing that is had only minimal to do with the overall plot I kind of skimmed those areas.
While McEwan's writing is brilliant there were a few points during the writing of Serena's inner monologue that didn't seem to match up with the rest of her character. She made a few observations about other people that seemed immature and out of character for her which made me think that McEwan didn't have the female psyche down completely.
Similar to Atonement, all is not as it seems throughout the novel. That is really all I can say, I do not wish to ruin any plot points but let's just say the ending blew me away and left me utterly speechless...actually no, I was speechless after uttering 'That was bloody brilliant' immediately after finishing. This book will not disappoint readers, I loved it, and if any of you have read I would love to hear your thoughts!