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Amsterdam : A Novel [Paperback]

Ian McEwan
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (88 customer reviews)

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Most helpful customer reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Cold in Amsterdam Feb. 23 2007
Ian McEwan is, without a doubt, one of the greatest writers of dark fiction today. But his novella "Amsterdam" is something of a misfire, reading more like the sluggishly-filled-out outline for a novel rather than a novel itself. While it has the seeds of genius, his usual introspection and depth is both missing and sorely missed.

Molly Lane is dead, her mind and body wrecked by an unspecified disease. Now her assorted lovers and friends reunite one last time, including Molly's ex-boyfriends Clive and Vernon, respectively a prominent composer and a not-so-respected newspaper editor. Because of Molly, they are friends -- and they enter into a pact because of her death.

But things go awry when Vernon gets his hands on photos of the Foreign Secretary Julian Garmony, cross-dressing and photographed by Molly. Eager to bring down Garmony and bring up his readership, Vernon wants to publish the photos in his newspaper; Clive is disgusted by this, yet he allows a rapist and murderer to go free for the sake of his musical inspiration. Which man is worse?

"Amsterdam" is like a city in winter: pretty at a distance but rather empty and cold when you walk through it. In theory it has all the elements needed for a great novel, but it feels vaguely unfinished, as if McEwan was expanding an outline into a full-fledged novel but somehow never finished the job.

The characters are lacking in the complexity found in most of McEwan's other books, where many dimensions can be found. Clive is almost impossible to connect with; Vernon is more understandable, given his waning career. But if these characters aren't really connectable, McEwan uses them to make us look at morality, hypocrisy, and where our bad intentions can lead us.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Start, Lukewarm Ending May 14 2004
Love Ian McEwan. This is a writer who'll call you names, but will giggle still and kiss you afterwards. His comedy and his portrait of modern life (or modern Britain during and after the Thatcher years) is without equal, and one should thank him for it.
But AMSTERDAM, his most critically-acclaimed work so far, is too obscure, too 'crammed' a book for this reviewer to highly recommend (Not that there is a need for it. This one, afterall, won THE Booker Prize). Here, four brilliantly constructed characters attempt to out-manouvre each other for no given reason (or is it perhaps because of pride? you decide). You will find it entertaining and inspiring to read how McEwan engineered each of his plots to deliver a psychological study (no matter how small the examination is) of his four major characters. You will feel their pain, their bitterness, their loneliness, their heartlessness, yet in a narrative that is straightforward and unsentimental. (His Julian Garmony, a cross-dressing politician of brilliant machiavellian talent, is one character you'll either love or hate. McEwan's account of Garmony's grasp of power simply is wonderful). Reading AMSTERDAM is like experiencing a Toni Morisson novel written by a PBS or an Economist (UK weekly mag) journalist, and this, I know, is not a bad thing.
This is a good introduction to McEwan, and a book highly enjoyable. But, as mentioned briefly above, the ending is quite lukewarm...
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars And not a tulip in sight June 28 2005
Apparently, I am in the minority in liking AMSTERDAM (which would, of course, include those individuals involved in selecting the winner of the Booker prize). It has been a long time since I have taken the time to read a novel straight through-the exception being the excellent and well-crafted BARK OF THE DOGWOOD and the novel LOVELY BONES-----but this story -- of the politics of friendship -- kept me hooked from the opening scene. AMSTERDAM opens at the funeral of Molly Lane, and treks the perverse friendship of two of her former lovers -- Vernon and Clive, a writer and composer, respectively. As the tale unfolds, it becomes evident that the loss of Molly -- their only link and their only real identity -- undoes them. In addition to the plot, with an interesting ethical twist regarding the slippery slope of euthenasia, the poetic prose of the novel and the myriad underlying plots make this book a pleasure to read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A case of the Emperor's new clothes Jan. 3 2007
What a galling act, to gift this trite, self indulgent, shallow personal billboard (not to mention dithering, pointless and irrelevant) novel with the Booker.

The shelves of this world are full to bursting with satisfactorily written novels deserving of nothing more than a polite pat on the back for the author's application and determination in achieving publication.

Awarding this novel with the Booker is akin to lauding George Bush for his political acumen.

Stand this novel beside Coetzee's Disgrace and watch it blush.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Made for t.v. movie on paper May 2 2002
By A Customer
I'm going to trash this book, but first I have to say that McEwan writes well line to line, as he explains where people are and what they're doing, and their surroundings. He's a master of efficiency and clarity of prose. Nothing I say below attacks his way of putting information across to the reader. Rather, it's the story he tells that bugs me. In short, it's just plain dumb.
If you like genre fiction, mysteries, suspense, then
you MIGHT like this, but if you're looking for literature
look elsewhere. And really, if you like genre fiction
the masters of the genres will probably satisfy you more
than this foray by an allegedly literary writer into what might be called suspense or mystery fiction.
There is VERY LITTLE character development in this 50,000 word
story (most novels are about 100,000 words; Amsterdam is really
a novella).
The story is all geared toward plot and feels VERY forced as things come together.
I'm starting to consider award labels (Booker Prize, Nat'l Book Award, Pulitzer, etc.) more as warning flags than anything else, given the low quality of many recent award winners (Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections, Michael Cunningham's The Hours, etc.). It's clear to me that in this business who you know and who likes you and who does not, plays a large role in things. Literary quality does not.
Now to give you a synopsis without giving away the whole story.
We have two friends, a newspaper man trying to save his job by boosting the circulation of his paper, and a composer trying to finish a symphony that must be done in time for a millenium celebration.
In the past they had both been the "lover" of a particular woman (maybe I should just avoid books that use the word "lover" seriously and not in jest).
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Most recent customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Split Personality?
Having first read "Saturday" and "The Innocent" I pushed through "Amsterdam" only because I was waiting for Ian McEwan's brilliance to turn up. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Caroda
2.0 out of 5 stars Amsterdumb
This is my first review ever on Amazon and I want to be able to express my thoughts on literature better so I figured, why not? Read more
Published on Nov. 5 2011 by PV
3.0 out of 5 stars Where's the beef?
I echo the cry of that terrible harridan of the 1980's Wendy's commercials. I enjoyed making my way through this, but by the time I was done I was like the venerable man after... Read more
Published on Oct. 22 2008 by Jack Blatant
4.0 out of 5 stars There's nothing about the coffee-shops...
An ex-photographer and a well known restaurant critic, Molly Lane had been a beautiful, lively and funny lady. Read more
Published on Aug. 12 2008 by Craobh Rua
2.0 out of 5 stars City of sin
Many words have been spoken about legalisation of eutanasia and death tourism in Netherlands,, many words have been spoken about sensationalist journalism, and may of them will be... Read more
Published on July 18 2004 by Matko Vladanovic
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but not a masterpiece
I have to agree with other reviewers that this book was interesting but flawed. It did not flesh out Clive and Vernon as would be needed. Read more
Published on March 4 2004 by Susie Sharon
5.0 out of 5 stars I couldn't put it down
A bit over the top perhaps, but I recommend it without hesitation.
Published on Feb. 27 2004
3.0 out of 5 stars Booker?
This book won the 1998 Booker prize. When I picked up this book I was expecting a lot – I was expecting something profound, something that would make me ponder life long... Read more
Published on Aug. 11 2003 by Amanda
3.0 out of 5 stars promptly forgot about it after I was finished
This is not a novel that sticks with you. Some 40something woman dies and two of her many ex-boyfriends enter a suicide pact at her funeral. Read more
Published on June 7 2002 by momazon
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