Sunday, 9 September 2012

The Pact

In 1998 a slim satirical novel by Ian McEwan won the Booker Prize for fiction.

Amsterdam (1998) tells the story of Clive Linley, a renowned composer, Vernon Halliday, a newspaper editor and Julian Garmony, the British Foreign Secretary who seeks to become Prime Minister. They meet at the funeral of Molly Lane, a woman who had been the lover of all three. The men are self-absorbed, ambitious and selfish, and Molly's death causes them think about their own mortality.  Vernon and Clive enter a pact to ensure they die with dignity should either be faced with a debilitating illness. They later have a falling out which leads to tragic consequences.

This novella showcases McEwan's writing talents and his ability to compress complex themes into a tight space. Here we explore friendship, grief, ambition, greed, morality and ethical decision making. His portrait of these unsympathetic men leaves the reader wanting more and filling in the gaps with their imagination. There is depth in his prose and his characters are interesting, albeit unlikable. There is a great twist in this satirical tale. While not as good as Enduring Love (1997) or Atonement (2001), McEwan's Amsterdam is a delight that can be enjoyed in one sitting.

My review of Atonement is also available on this blog.