McEwan’s Amsterdam

I recently finished reading Ian McEwan’s book, Amsterdam. And in all honesty, I have to say that it was pretty disappointing. I can’t really recommend the book to anyone else, but I’ve made it a goal to catalog this year’s reading here on my website… so here are some of my thoughts.

My sister-in-law, Jacqueline, tweeted at me about a month ago, linking a publisher’s list of its top Amsterdam-themed books, and I was surprised by how few of the titles I’d actually read. I decided to check out McEwan’s Amsterdam because it was a work of fiction (and my literary diet tends to lean a bit too much towards non-fiction these days)… it had received the presitgious Booker Prize (albeit back in the late-1990s)… and, truthfully, the cover of the book appealed to my sense of design (though you know what they say about judging a book by its cover).

One of my biggest complaints about the book is that it actually has very little to do with Amsterdam! I believe the first mention of the city doesn’t even come until over half-way through the book! And it’s really only the final chapter or two that are set in the Netherlands. Even when Amsterdam does make its appearance in the book, it’s primarily a euphemism for euthanasia — not an actual part of the story. And since I got into the book thinking it was going to heavily feature the city that I grew to love over my decade of living there, the book became pretty disappointing to me.

The story itself was fine. Not great, just fine. The two main characters were not all that likable (though I don’t think they were supposed to be). The plot maintained my interest, but it didn’t pull me through. I was entertained along the way, but not too disappointed when I got to the end and had the chance to move on to something else.

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