Ian McEwan has written two collections of short stories--First Love, Last Rites and In Between the Sheets--as well as seven novels: The Cement Garden, The Comfort of Strangers, The Child in Time, The Innocent, Black Dogs, Enduring Love, and most recently, Amsterdam.
After the calm of a pleasant afternoon picnic is punctured by a terrible accident‘a man falls to his death as a hot-air balloon floats away, carrying a child‘Joe Rose finds himself imbedded in the aftershock. One of several men who tried to hold down the balloon but eventually let go, he must reconcile his part in the tragedy with the threat posed by a stalker trying to save him through love. In turns obsessively morbid and cunningly funny, McEwan's deftly crafted prose holds the reader with the intensity of a thriller while engaging in a deep psychological exploration of shock, grief, the need for redemption, and, ultimately, the makeup of compassion and love. (LJ 10/15/98)
The stunning beginning of McEwan's latest novel delivers a vivid visceral jolt: six men run across a verdant English field, each bent on rescuing a man dangling by a rope from a helium balloon while a small boy cowers in the basket, about to be swept away. One of the would-be rescuers will become a victim instead, falling to his death. But the tragedy is just the catalyst of what will be another one of McEwan's (The Child in Time) eerie stories of bizarre events and personal obsessions. As always, his work is imbued with a mounting sense of menace as the unthinkable intrudes into the everyday. Narrator Joe Rose is astonished, then repelled, then deeply frightened when one of the men, an unstable, delusional young man called Jed Parry, sees the incident as fated, a divine command to him to bring Joe to God. The tightly controlled narrative charts Joe's psychological disintegration as Jed stalks him with accelerating frenzy. Jed's mad demands feed into Joe's sense of guilt about his behavior during the fateful afternoon and his frustration with his career as a science writer. The ultimate casualty, after two more violent events occur, is Joe's relationship with his lover, Clarissa, a professor and expert on Keats. McEwan wrings wry meaning from the contrast of poetry and science, the limitations of rational logic and the delusive emotional temptations of faith. As he investigates the nature of obsessive love, McEwan takes some false steps in explaining Clarissa's misperceptions of Joe's behavior, somewhat lessening his story's credibility but not its powerful impact. Perhaps it is this lapse that persuaded the Booker judges not even to nominate the book, touted by the British press early on as a sure choice for winner. Whatever its limitations, however, the tightly controlled narrative, equally graced with intelligent speculation and dramatic momentum, will keep readers hooked. First serial to the New Yorker; author tour. (Feb.)
"A remarkable novel, haunting and original and written in prose that anyone who writes can only envy." --The Washington Post
"Impeccably written--[McEwan] is the quietest and most lucid of stylists, with never a word wasted or fumbled." --The New York Review of Books "Eerie, slow-paced suspense worth its weight in caffeine for keeping you up all night." --Entertainment Weekly "[A] beautifully realized--novel about our responses to violence. It asks us to choose between competing visions of events, and, in the process, forces us to examine the way we react to both art and life when something terrible happens." --The Boston Globe "McEwan's writing--is unflaggingly poised and, as usual, capable of excavating deep, painful trenches in the back corridors of the psyche and the heart." --Miami Herald "Cleverly imagined, beautifully executed--Mr. McEwan has few peers." --The Wall Street Journal