Top positive review
A study in egotism and emotional remoteness...
4 February 2015
Amsterdam is Ian McEwan's Booker Prize winner from 1998. It primarily deals with two friends who meet at the funeral of Molly Lane and a pact that they make between themselves shortly after. Vernon is an editor trying to reverse the fortunes of an eminent newspaper in decline and Clive is one of Britain's greatest composer's alive. Among the several former lovers also happens to be Julian, an eminent politician with aspirations for the country's highest public office. As the story unfolds, a personal indiscretion is revealed which possess in it the power to derail Julian's political career. The pact made between two friends has consequences neither one of them has foreseen that will make them question the foundations of their friendship.
Like some of other McEwan's works, the character's can be classed as working in white-collar jobs. Publishers, editors, journalists, music composers and politicians; characters whose personal and professional lives the working-class only get a fleeting glimpse of from the mass media. The orchestration and the manipulation of the media by the people at their helm is one of the very disturbing facets in this novel and sure to make the reader question everything that we are fed in these modern times. McEwan is master of analyzing and describing human emotions and thought processes so minutely and accurately that the characters become instantly identifiable and easy to relate to despite them being so far removed from our everyday lives. There are some other weighty issues to be tackled her like euthanasia, the flexible morality of the modern world, the exercise of power for the fulfillment of a personal vendetta, the ease with which public servants are forgiven their transgressions, shifting loyalties, the collective moral compass of a nation, the nature of friendships, self-absorption, conceit, deceit, expediency, treachery and alliances in the workplace, etc. These are all universal themes and issues which serves to bring the reader closer to the motivation of the characters actions.
McEwan's works are extremely divisive with readers either considering him a misunderstood master on one end of the spectrum and others who believe his works to be overrated and pretentious garbage at the other end. This book is under 200 pages and very quick read. It's neat little gem. Not sure it was wholly deserving of the Booker Prize, but like the Oscars they are sometimes handed out as an acknowledgement for an author's body of work.