Amsterdam by Ian McEwan

By Ian McEwan
Completed January 1, 2008

Amsterdam is a story that could be a course in irony. I realize that many Ian McEwan fans didn't think this novel was up to the writer's standards, but I enjoyed the dark humor and, well, the irony that permeated this short novel.

Clive Linley and Vernon Halliday were friends, attending the funeral of a mutual, former lover named Molly Lane. Molly was no stranger to having lovers, and the prestigious, up-and-coming Foreign Secretary Julian Garmony was among her conquests. With each man, Molly brought out the best in each lover: Clive created beautiful music, Vernon climbed the newspaper editor ranks and Julian was an expert politician. At the time of Molly's death, each man teetered toward the next step of his career - the very wrung that would make him a legend.

However, Molly's death revealed something scandalous about Julian: incriminating photos of him were found in Molly’s private collection and leaked to Vernon's paper. Vernon told Clive about the photos, which Clive recommended not be printed. Because of Julian's despicable politics and the opportunity to move his career to new heights, Vernon dismissed his friend's advice. Without telling you the end, the proverbial house of cards fell down on all three men. Without Molly, they stood to risk their careers, friendships and legacies - all in one foul swoop.

The ending, to me, was fit and proper for this story, carefully foreshadowed throughout the novel. In games of jealousy, egoticism and revenge, McEwan's Amsterdam shows that no one is the winner. ( )

(cross-posted from my blog)