I finally got around to reading Ian McEwan’s Sweet Tooth. And it disappointed me. Majorly.
The premise of the story is interesting: it is the story of Serena Frome (rhymes with “plume”) and her 18 months in the British Secret Services. She goes undercover on a cultural mission that feels slightly overwrought.
I am a huge admirer of McEwan’s work. I don’t think there’s anyone out there writing like him. His early novels — like The Comfort of Strangers, The Cement Garden and Amsterdam — were all uniquely dark, highlighting the “uglier” side of human psychology and behavior. But he does it so succinctly and with a humorous edge. It is not easy to write like he does.
His later work, Atonement and Saturday (two of my favorite novels), graduate to something much bigger, more ambitious. And they’re so well-written.
Sweet Tooth is ambitious and well-written in the way a smart article or history book is written. But to be honest, I didn’t much care about the characters or the story. It seems more like a novel of historical ideas more than a novel about character.
And it wasn’t until the very last pages that I could appreciate the literary journey McEwan took me on. It almost justified having stuck with the book. I just wish I didn’t have to wait 250+ pages to get there.