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Joe Rose has planned a postcard-perfect afternoon in the English countryside to celebrate his lover's return after six weeks in the States. To complete the picture, there's even a "helium balloon drifting dreamily across the wooded valley." But as Joe and Clarissa watch the balloon touch down, their idyll comes to an abrupt end. The pilot catches his leg in the anchor rope, while the only passenger, a boy, is too scared to jump down. As the wind whips into action, Joe and four other men rush to secure the basket. Mother Nature, however, isn't feeling very maternal. "A mighty fist socked the balloon in two rapid blows, one-two, the second more vicious than the first," and at once the rescuers are airborne. Joe manages to drop to the ground, as do most of his companions, but one man is lifted sky-high, only to fall to his death.
In itself, the accident would change the survivors' lives, filling them with an uneasy combination of shame, happiness, and endless self-reproach. (In one of the novel's many ironies, the balloon eventually lands safely, the boy unscathed.) But fate has far more unpleasant things in store for Joe. Meeting the eye of fellow rescuer Jed Parry, for example, turns out to be a very bad move. For Jed is instantly obsessed, making the first of many calls to Joe and Clarissa's London flat that very night. Soon he's openly shadowing Joe and writing him endless letters. (One insane epistle begins, "I feel happiness running through me like an electrical current. I close my eyes and see you as you were last night in the rain, across the road from me, with the unspoken love between us as strong as steel cable.") Worst of all, Jed's version of love comes to seem a distortion of Joe's feelings for Clarissa.
Apart from the incessant stalking, it is the conditionals--the contingencies--that most frustrate Joe, a scientific journalist. If only he and Clarissa had gone straight home from the airport... If only the wind hadn't picked up... If only he had saved Jed's 29 messages in a single day... Ian McEwan has long been a poet of the arbitrary nightmare, his characters ineluctably swept up in others' fantasies, skidding into deepening violence, and--worst of all--becoming strangers to those who love them. Even his prose itself is a masterful and methodical exercise in defamiliarization. But Enduring Love and its underrated predecessor, Black Dogs, are also meditations on knowledge and perception as well as brilliant manipulations of our own expectations. By the novel's end, you will be surprisingly unafraid of hot-air balloons, but you won't be too keen on looking a stranger in the eye. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Library Journal
Maxwell Caulfield gives a chilly narration of McEwan's novel about a tragic incident that opens the door to an encounter between a stalker and his victim. Joe Rose and his wife, Clarissa, enjoying a picnic, are interrupted when a hot-air balloon escapes from its moorings with a child on board. McEwan's engrossing account of the event describes in minute detail the moment the balloon takes flight to the death of one of the would-be rescuers. It is during this time that Jed approaches Joe and begins a series of harassing phone calls, letters, and personal confrontations. The first-person narrative by Joe is effective in following the disturbed young man as he drives a wedge between the couple. Caulfield's reading brings out the highly emotional character of the pursuer and the frustration of his quarry. Recommended for fiction collections.?Catherine Swenson, Norwich Univ. Lib., Northfield, VT
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
Freelance writer Joe Rose and his wife Clarissa are in the wrong place at the wrong time. While enjoying a romantic picnic in the English countryside, they witness a tragic accident, a ballooning trip that goes horribly wrong. Joe and other passersby rush to the rescue, but the men bungle the operation and one of them, John Logan, dies as a result.
This would already be a lot of action in most books but in Ian McEwan's dark and surprising world it's just the starting point. One of the other rescuers, an intensely religious young man named Jed Parry, has in an instant become obsessed with Joe. At first it seems unwelcome but harmless, and no one takes it too seriously. Not the police, and not Clarissa. Parry follows Joe around, waits outside his house, writes him lengthy love letters: the situation becomes more and more disruptive of Joe's everyday life, yet Clarissa reacts unsympathetically, seeming to feel that Joe has blown the inconvenience out of proportion. Joe contacts the police again, but the Inspectors find nothing threatening in someone obsessively promising to love you. Eventually, however, the latent atheism in Joe's published writings seems to push Parry over the brink - and what happens after that brings to mind the well-worn phrase "I love you to death".
McEwan has written a book that is superb on several levels. One of its central themes has to do with the standard for determining when one person's behavior is threatening to another. Joe's life is being disrupted, he feels dread every time he looks out the window or checks his mail: Parry's unwelcome actions are clearly causing him anxiety.Read more ›
(Of course, you might say, with all those book-titles under his belt, what can possibly go wrong with this one)
ENDURING LOVE, the author's nineth novel, is the story of Joe Rose, disciple of scientific rationalism ("You're so rational sometimes you're like a child"), who becomes an object of desire (devotion according to the New York Times, 25.01.98) of a mad, "Jesus freak", Jed Parry.
Parry's personal belief that there's something between them- an unspoken love "as strong as steel cable"- is so powerful, so convincing that it is threatening the stability of Rose's relationship with his partner, Clarissa.
The fruits of Parry's obsession is so terrifying that sometimes I, as the reader, wonders whether such an expression of desire is possible. Could it be that Rose is just imagining things?
(Apparently not, and Rose gave us a name for this kind of obsession, de Clerambault's syndrome. NOTE: I suggest that you finish the book first before investigating the nature of this mental illness)
There are times when you need to be patient with this book. Discussions ranging from Einstein to Keats to the Shroud of Turin will surely turn off some readers. Furthermore, don't expect shocking, melo-dramatic scenes in this novel. The intensity of McEwan's narration is so controlled and subtle that one might find it frustrating.
Nevertheless, ENDURING LOVE is an intelligent, compelling thriller. A fine novel that deserves to be read. McEwan should be congratulated for creating this novel.
This novel has a fantastic opening - the protagonist Joe Rose, a journalist, has brought his girlfriend/lover Clarissa, to the countryside to celebrate her return from the US. While they are there, enjoying their picnic, they witness a tragedy, as a man falls dead to the ground from a helium balloon. Jed Parry, one of the other witnesses to the tragic accident, becomes obsessed with Joe. Jed starts to stalk Joe, believing that they share some extraordinary link and that the two of them are bound by love.
So, what started out as a tragic accident is soon turned into familiar McEwan style, with relationships, science, religion and psychological obsession as some of the elements he touches upon. Unfortunately, this novel doesn't keep up with the expectations brought upon us from its amazing opening. Fair enough, I found "Enduring Love" at times unbearable in its suspense and hard to put down, but I was never completely captured by the characters.
More strongly recommended are the other McEwan novels "The innocent" and the Booker Prize winning "Amsterdam".
Most recent customer reviews
I have read several books by this author. I found that he digressed too much in this novel. Pages and pages that had nothing to do with the story. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Joan Turner Rosner
Ian McEwan: Enduring Love.
I have problems with this author’s books. There were times when I considered McEwan the greatest of all present writers. Read more
Okay, so McEwen has one a few Bookers, but I hated Amsterdam, and I didn't like Enduring Love much better.
What do we have here? Read more
One one level, at least, McEwan descends to that of the ordinary: the mere plebian. This is the first book of his I have read where one of the main characters isn't a busom buddy... Read morePublished on April 20 2002 by Richard Cunningham
I first read Ian McEwan in 1976. I had just arrived in Ireland for a year of study and picked up an inexpensive Picador paperback edition of his first collection of stories, "First... Read morePublished on April 18 2002
I was given this novel to read for english class and found it a little difficult to get into in the beginning. Read morePublished on April 2 2002
I started this book with an open mind but just could not finish it. It is one of the worst books that I've ever picked up. How did people get past the ridiculous premise? Read morePublished on March 31 2002
I think the opening pages of Ian McEwan's "Enduring Love" are among the finest in all of literature. "We were running towards a catastrophe," says one of the characters. Read morePublished on March 30 2002
This is a well-written book, in fact a superbly written book, with McEwan demonstrating his considerable narrative and descriptive skills. Read morePublished on March 25 2002 by firstname.lastname@example.org