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Sweet Tooth: A Novel [Hardcover]

3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)

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Most helpful customer reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More Bookish Thoughts... Sept. 16 2012
By Reader Writer Runner TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
I must admit that the premise of Ian McEwan's latest novel did not initially excite me: young, British woman becomes embroiled in intrigue, a love affair and anti-Communist espionage. However, I couldn't take a pass on my favourite author's new work so I gave "Sweet Tooth" a try. As usual, McEwan did not disappoint.

Serena Frome (rhymes with plume), the gorgeous and intelligent daughter of an Anglican bishop and an ambitious mother, reluctantly studies math at Cambridge. In her spare time, she shines as a book reviewer in a student magazine column called "What I Read Last Week." Frome soon discovers Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and starts writing anti-Communist rants, which get her noticed by Tony Canning, a university professor who becomes her lover. Unbeknownst to Serena, Canning grooms her for a career in the intelligence service with MI-5.

Serena's superiors put her in charge of recruiting young academic and promising writer, Tom Healy, into the program. Of course, she cannot tell Healy that his funds come from MI-5; he believes he is being paid by a cultural foundation. Ultimately, Serena leads a double life with Healy; she becomes his lover but also spies on him for the intelligence service. Meanwhile, she believes she is being followed doesn’t know whom she can trust, especially after she finds out a secret about Canning.

As usual, McWean's spare, efficient prose makes this book both memorable and enjoyable. But it's the author's knack for subtly incorporating the unexpected that makes him truly remarkable. "Solar" featured a faked murder, "Atonement" hinged on a crucial lie, and "Amsterdam" ended in devastation. "Sweet Tooth," too, contains a little surprise that everything turns upon. It not only makes the reader gasp audibly; it brilliantly unites the themes of deception, betrayal and unconditional love.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
By John Kwok TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
Ian McEwan has conjured a most riveting blend of literary fiction, historical fiction and espionage thriller in his latest novel, "Sweet Truth", which is as much a celebration of early 1970s Anglo-American literature as well as a spellbinding espionage thriller of the kind readers might expect from John Le Carre or Ken Follet. Drawn upon a relatively little known aspect of British espionage history, McEwan's new novel is a riveting tale of love and betrayal, espionage and one's own identity. A young Cambridge University student, the literary minded and mathematically inclined Serena Frome, is recruited by MI5 - Great Britain's equivalent of the American FBI - in identifying potential writers who could work on behalf of the Conservative British government on a public disinformation campaign against Britain's left-wing opposition. She soon identifies a likely prospect, the young writer Tom Healy, becoming both his muse, and eventually, his lover, sharing his passion for superb contemporary Anglo-American literature as he writes a potential award-winning dystopian fiction debut novel. Narrated in first-person by Frome years after the events chronicled in "Sweet Tooth", readers are treated to a rapidly spiraling web of deceit as Frome struggles to keep her secret identity as a MI5 agent from Healy, as she retains an intensely intellectual and sexual-charged relationship with him. Much to my amazement, McEwan also treats readers to the best fictional depiction of the Monty Hall problem in probability theory I have encountered, and one especially memorable for its revealing insights pertaining to Frome's behavior. Without question, McEwan's compellingly readable new novel should be viewed as among this year's best and one probably destined for consideration for many of the major awards bestowed upon contemporary Anglo-American literature.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars no need for a medicinal sedative... Sept. 29 2012
Format:Hardcover
After reading a couple of Ian McEwan's books I was excited to read his newest novel. However, excitement turned into boredom with the slow progression and the yawn-able story line. Having read quite a few snoozers this year, I was hoping for something better, but this turned out to be more of the same. Writers writing about writing. The main character wanted to be a writer, her lover is a writer, they meet over writing, the main character's friend is also a writer, there are several short stories written in the novel that the main character's lover writes, etc etc. As a reader, I'm sick of reading about writing! Overall, I found this story to be slow, unexciting, and it ultimately it had a disappointing ending.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ah, Sweet Deceit July 4 2013
Format:Kindle Edition
Though a bit dry at times, I was well hooked into the story, midway,and thoroughly delighted by the twists and turns on the journey to a conclusion. Mcewan is a brilliant writer.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Laugh May 23 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Serena is a hapless young woman stumbling her way through a silly MI5 assignment.in the early 70's Educated but relatively poor, beautiful, but of a social class that somehow missed out on the wildness of that era in Britain.leaving her sexually vulnerable to just about every man she meets.. She is nowhere near as self-aware as today's young people.
Wonderful pictures of the bed-sit, rain-soaked London of that era..A finely drawn character.
.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars SUBTLE ESPIONAGE April 28 2013
By little lady blue TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
I'm not sure if there is such a thing as `subtle espionage' but it seems to be what McEwan was going for with this book.

The end left me deflated. There was no defining closure. I thought maybe even one more page could have allowed a satisfying ending. Then for some reason I flipped back to page 1 & found in the first paragraph how cleverly McEwan had given us the ending we would all be looking for at the very beginning, had we only known.

I found the premise of the `Sweet Tooth' mission silly, but then I'm not up on how MI5 works. Serena is not the most likable of characters. For a pretty, well educated, well read girl from a good family she is very naïve & gullible. She appears as pliable putty falling `in love' with every man that crosses her path. Also the books within the book was a bit tedious. For these reasons the story kind of plodded along, but I couldn't stop reading because of the way McEwan writes. Its conversational prose written in the first person, narrated by Serena, kind of pulls you in & you can't stop.

*Of special interest to me was the way Tom explains to Serena how to `feel' poetry rather than just read the words. (Pg.178). Exceptionally touching & beautifully expressed. It made me want to read some poetry.*

McEwan is a skillful master of words making for me an otherwise absurd story with an unlikable heroine quite readable.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars A Picture of England Undergoing Change
When is a spy novel not a spy novel? When it’s in the hands of the excellent Ian McEwen, who uses his prodigious writing skill to give us a literary, and very literate, tale of... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Gabriel Boutros
2.0 out of 5 stars Harlequin Romance
This book reminded me of a Harlequin Romance staged at MI5. Serena Frome, the protagonist, loved her sex and just wanted a man. Any man. Read more
Published 6 months ago by TBirdVI
3.0 out of 5 stars Not up to McEwan standards
If you loved Atonement or Saturday, this book will disappoint you. By any other author, this would be a good book but by McEwan, this book is wanting.
Published 8 months ago by Mrs Tupper
1.0 out of 5 stars Annoying stupid novel
It is hard to know where to start in reviewing this annoying novel. First, author wants to show off his virtuosity in writing in the first person in the persona of a woman. Read more
Published 9 months ago by John F. Brinckman
3.0 out of 5 stars Ian McEwan:Sweet Tooth
I usually try not to get information about a new book before I write the review. This time, however, I learnt in advance that this book was not popular with readers. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Hana
4.0 out of 5 stars Offbeat spythriller engages throughout..i couldnt put it down
Look up look down
The sky is falling down

A childhood limerick from my youth in which all that the world holds in a child's mind.. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Anthony Marinelli
5.0 out of 5 stars McEwan strikes again
Just brilliant and entertaining once again, totally believable and a fascinating story. Highly recommended and a good first look at McEwan if you are not already a fan.
Published 14 months ago by rotmanpr
4.0 out of 5 stars Solid McEwan effort
If you like McEwan's other novels you won't be disappointed. It's not his best work, but even so, it is well worth reading.
Published 15 months ago by L. Behan
3.0 out of 5 stars A Misfire with an Ending You Probably Won't Love
"For I rejoiced greatly when brethren came and testified of the truth that is in you, just as you walk in the truth. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Donald Mitchell
1.0 out of 5 stars Cleaner
I concur with Jilly. This novel was an astounding letdown. One would expect so much more from Ian MacEwen. Writing about "writing" is at best, mundane. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Caraleen
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