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Black Dogs: A Novel [Kindle Edition]

Ian Mcewan
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

In this slim, provocative novel, McEwan ( The Innocent ) examines the conflict between intellect and feeling, as dramatized in one couple's troubled relationship. The narrator is fascinated by his wife's estranged parents, The lives of June and Bernard Tremaine, whose lives epitomize the tug-of-war between political engagement and a private search for ultimate meaning: their ideological and spiritual differences force them apart but never diminish their mutual love. The catalytic event in the Tremaines' lives occurs on their honeymoon in France in 1946. With the characteristic idealism of their generation, both had joined the Communist Party, but June is already becoming disenchanted with its claims. In an encounter with two huge, ferocious dogs--incarnations of the savagely irrational eruptions that recur throughout history--she has an insight that illumines for her the possibility of redemption. Liberally foreshadowed, --the bloodthirsty beasts are used as an overarching metaphor for the presence of evil in the world-- the actual episode with the dogs is not depicted until the book's final section, where its impact requires the reader to take a leap of faith similar to June's. For some this pivotal scene may not be fully convincing. Indeed, McEwan is rather too didactic in the exposition of his theme, so one may expect too much from the novel's dramatic main event. Yet the work is impressive; McEwan's meticulous prose, his shaping of his material to create suspense, and his adept use of specific settings--Poland's Majdanek concentration camp, Berlin during the dismantling of the Wall, a primitive area of the French countryside--produce a haunting fable about the fragility of civilization, always threatened by the cruelty latent in humankind.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Having lost his parents in an auto accident when he was eight years old, the narrator of McEwan's splendid new novel is fascinated with other people's parents--particularly his remarkable in-laws, indissolubly linked yet estranged and combative almost since their wedding. A man of reason who was once a Communist, Bernard Tremaine cannot understand why his wife, June, rejected political activism for spiritual quest after "an encounter with evil" in the form of two fierce black dogs. McEwan does not so much tell their story as the story of the son-in-law's efforts to understand them better by writing about them. Though Bernard and June represent diametrically opposed ways of looking at the world--two views beautifully and succinctly captured by McEwan--they are not mere vessels of thought but lively, distinctive characters in their own right. As the narrator returns to the French countryside where June fatefully encountered the dogs, the deceptively simple buildup makes her brush with violence all the more shocking. A novel of ideas with the hard edge of a thriller; highly recommended.
-Barbara Hoffert, "Library Journal"
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 2470 KB
  • Print Length: 177 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor (Feb. 2 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004JHYKC4
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)

Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Walking Into Their World June 12 2001
How amazing is it to capture audience's attention within 171 pages'novel? The writing is enviably beautiful and peaceful; the theme is intelligent and rich. The struggle between rationalism and spiritualism are explored in this book. Basically, the novel is describing a young couple begins their honeymoon almost the day they're married. But it seems like it is not a perfect time to have a honeymoon after War World II. This novel is a more rounded journey. From introduction to conclusion, it seems like we walked back to the starting point, which is a wonderful writing skill. McEwan also plays around with the character's roles, it makes more interesting. He uses the playing of writing skills to attract audience's attention. Each character is fully realized, and the dialogue perfect in its realism as well as its restraint. Although I was not very enjoying reading few chapters, I still finished the reading. As I read, I found out the preface and conclusion is most phenomenally.¡§ Once we began to see the world differently, we could feel time running out on us and we were impatient with each other.¡This is the quotation I found more attracted. The reason is because I feel it described the truth out of my mind.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Sublime May 22 2000
I loved this story: it stayed with me for days. The writing is enviably beautiful and rich; the theme is intelligent and challenging. Ostensibly, the debate between mysticism versus rationalism sunders Bernard and June. But each of the combatants possesses the worst traits of the other's ideology. Bernard has a slavish faith in the scientific method, while June feels the necessity to shore up her spirituality with flawless rhetoric and argumentation. They must both explain: and the irony is that their marriage ends, even though they are both talking about the same thing: the truth as they perceive it.
While this certainly isn't a new theme (postmodernism and its subsequent backlash has provided us with a lot of reading lately), McEwan handles it creatively and respectfully. He gives us no answers and never insults our intelligence.
Finally, McEwan brings up the question of evil and how we respond to it. In one situation, our narrator would turn away from it given his choice(when Bernard faces the mob, and the narrator doesn't); in another situation, the narrator confronts evil in another, bigger man and in himself.
It is a short, worthwhile, well-crafted read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars brillaint observation of social decay March 29 2001
The story of a young couple whose estrangement begins almost the day they're married, as told by the fascinated son-in-law, an orphan himself. An amazing novel, as universal as the fall of Communism and the memory of genocide and as introspective as one young woman's discovery of the mystical, of God, inside herself when she encounters some vicious dogs. As cosmic as the problem of pure evil and as ordinary as a bickering couple. Beautifully written, masterfully paced, and told with just the right amount of tension mixed with a soothing degree of acceptance. Each character is fully realized, and the dialogue perfect in its realism as well as its restraint. McEwan lets the characters reveal themselves, though their actions as well as actual descriptions of each other, and the subtleties, and potential misunderstandings, are complex and brilliant.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Love, Logic, Life, the "spriitual" thing. April 1 2002
McEwan tells a tale of a couple that met at the end of WW II. They are pretty, passionate, and intelligent people. They love each other, but cannot live together. He seeks "progression" through life as a scientist, author, politician while she sees life as a "transformation". She is searching for that spiritual thing in her that she 1st noted at a moment when she thought she would die. The author tells a story, but he also paints with his words. This tale, the phrasing, and the rhythm show the difference between just a story teller, and an artist. This a short (140 pages) and thoughtful book that should be read slowly (not in one sitting), and it will stay inside for a long time.
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2.0 out of 5 stars At Least It's Short Nov. 4 2007
This book reads more like a chunk taken from a longer unfinished novel... upon finishing it, I was left with a feeling that there had to be more.

"Black Dogs" features a remarkably boring romance coloured by the knowledge of a mysterious life-altering event involving dogs. The actual incident with the dogs occurs near the book's end and is the first time "Black Dogs" is involving.

Check that - the prologue is a well-written introduction to the narrator. Unfortunately, the incidents and information contained in the prologue have no real impact upon the rest of the story.

Between the prologue and the climax are 100 dreadfully dull pages.
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5.0 out of 5 stars not afraid to ask the big questions April 6 2001
By A Customer
Mcewen fans will love this book-I put it in the same class as the best of Mcewen, i.e., Enduring Love. This is a book that explores the struggle between rationalism and spiritualism, and contains some of the most graceful writing you will see. In particular, the preface is phenomenally appealing, and will not allow you to put the book down. The same is true for the characters' musings on war as the accumulation of countless personal tragedies. This is a good one!
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