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Summary and book reviews of Amsterdam by Ian McEwan

Amsterdam

by Ian McEwan

Amsterdam
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  • First Published:
    Dec 1998, 193 pages
    Paperback:
    Nov 1999, 193 pages

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Book Summary

A contemporary morality tale that is as profound as it is witty. Ian McEwan at his wisest and most wickedly disarming.

On a chilly February day, two old friends meet in the throng outside a crematorium to pay their last respects to Molly Lane. Both Clive Linley and Vernon Halliday had been Molly's lovers in the days before they reached their current eminence. Clive is Britain's most successful modern composer; Vernon is editor of the quality broadsheet The Judge. Gorgeous, feisty Molly had had other lovers, too, notably Julian Garmony, foreign secretary, a notorious right-winger tipped to be the next prime minister.

In the days that follow Molly's funeral, Clive and Vernon will make a pact with consequences neither has foreseen. Each will make a disastrous moral decision, their friendship will be tested to its limits, and Julian Garmony will be fighting for his political life.

In Amsterdam, a contemporary morality tale that is as profound as it is witty, we have Ian McEwan at his wisest and most wickedly disarming. And why Amsterdam? What happens there to Clive and Vernon is the most delicious climax of a novel brimming with surprises.

Winner of the 1998 Booker Prize.

Chapter One

Two former lovers of Molly Lane stood waiting outside the crematorium chapel with their backs to the February chill. It had all been said before, but they said it again.

"She never knew what hit her."

"When she did it was too late."

"Rapid onset."

"Poor Molly."

"Mmm."

Poor Molly. It began with a tingling in her arm as she raised it outside the Dorchester Grill to stop a cab --a sensation that never went away. Within weeks she was fumbling for the names of things. Parliament, chemistry, propeller she could forgive herself, but less so bed, cream, mirror. It was after the temporary disappearance of acanthus and bresaiola that she sought medical advice, expecting reassurance. Instead, she was sent for tests and, in a sense, never returned. How quickly feisty Molly became the sickroom prisoner of her morose, possessive husband, George. Molly, restaurant critic, gorgeous wit, and photographer, the daring gardener, who had been loved by the foreign...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
When you read Ian McEwan's most recent novel, Amsterdam, you'll understand why it won the Booker Prize. When you read his earlier works, you'll wonder why he didn't win it sooner.


The four McEwan novels--Booker Prize-winning Amsterdam, Enduring Love, Black Dogs, and The Innocent--included in this Reading Group Companion, showcase the author's range and skill as he delivers unlikely, and welcome, combinations of suspense, ethics, philosophy, and political and religious ideology. In lesser hands, such a mix might be lethal. In McEwan's, it's intoxicating.



About This Book

On a chilly February day, two old friends meet in the throng outside a London crematorium to pay their last respects to Molly ...
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Reviews

Media Reviews

The New York Times - Michiko Kakutani

[In Amsterdam] are the simple pleasures of reading a writer in complete command of his craft, a writer who has managed to toss off this minor entertainment with such authority and aplomb that it has won him the recognition he has so long deserved.

The Washington Post Book World - Michael Dirda

Though McEwan addresses several serious themes--in particular, the conflict between personal desire and public responsibility--his ingenious conte cruel possesses the lightness of touch and split-second plotting of an operetta.... There is no huffing and puffing, no waste, no mess. Every sentence carries the fugue-like plot forward to the final catastrophe.

Publishers Weekly

As swift as a lethal bullet and as timely as current headlines, McEwan's Booker Prize-winning novel is a mordantly clever but ultimately too clever for its own good....That said, however, it will undoubtedly hit the bestseller charts, for McEwan, even when not quite at the top of his form, is a writer of compelling gifts

Author Blurb The Independent on Sunday - Alain de Botton
Amsterdam is a pitiless study of the darker aspects of male psychology, of male paranoia, emotional frigidity, sexual jealousy, professional rivalry and performance anxiety....Despite the darkness of the themes, or perhaps because of them, Amsterdam is extremely funny in a black sort of way....Ghoulishly compelling.

Reader Reviews

jpj

For some reason I can say I've read everything by McEwan and this book, although it won a Booker Prize, is not his best. At least to me. The ending is down right stupid and loses the entire tone of the novel. And if McEwan meant it that way, than ...   Read More

Ewa

I'm a Polish student and had to read that book for an English competition. I've chosen it mainly because it had so many good opinions and was rewarded a prize. Contrary to what the 'pundits' may say, I found that book a bit boring. And that Amsterdam...   Read More

kansas_bookie

Most recently I re-read this novel for a class discussion...and predictably I found further meaning in the characters.
First time through, however, it was a bit unsettling, stretched myself frequently to attach substance to twists and turns.
Leaping ...   Read More

Ruthanne

A great manipulator: Ian McEwan is a brilliant author but this book almost put me off reading his more recent and masterful work, ATONEMENT.
The plot is dark and the characters not well drawn in AMSTERDAM. It begins with a funeral and two men who...   Read More

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