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on March 22, 2014
I recently revisited this book and it was as fresh, beautiful, and haunting as all of McEwan's novels. A couple on holiday visit a city that seems to be Venice but is unnamed. They've been together seven years and have become so close they are like identical twins still in the womb, so in synchrony there is a dullness to their connection and lives. Even in this new city, the sleepy spell between them isn't really broken, and one night when they get lost in the city it feels like they are lost within themselves, unable to find their way out of the predictable comforts that protect them from the world - a shared humor, an intellectual way of looking at the world, a surrender to sexual playfulness. As events become more sinister, you become aware of how your own life is filled with a veneer of comforts that are largely illusory, a kind of affirmative lie that we cling to as protection. The climax of the novel is almost unimaginable and leaves you breathless. But what I love most about this novel, and all of McEwan's novels, are his beautiful insights about character, about the often amusing and unarticulated way that we all perceive the world, and the machinations of life itself.
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Many of the trademarks we have come to expect in McEwan novels are already here in this early novel published in the U. S. in 1981, the ironic title, the complexity, the psychological tension, the ambiguities, the questions left unanswered. I was handicapped in reading this novel in that I had already seen the movie so it was impossible not to see Rupert Everett and Natasha Richardson getting lost in those maze-like alleys in Venice. (Nowhere in this slim novel, however, does McEwan name the city where the sinister action takes place.} On the other hand, since I knew the outcome, I could look for and admire the clues the author gives as to what will happen. McEwan does an excellent job of setting the tone for what ultimately occurs early in the novel. As early as page 17: "Colin and Mary had never left the hotel so late, and Mary was to attribute much of what followed to this fact." There are lots of references to the sexual tension between men and women in addition to many homoerotic allusions throughout the book that prepare you, at least in part, for the shattering climax of this horrific little novel.
McEwan always gives the reader a story that appeals both to the intellect and the emotions. As usual, he doesn't disappoint us. One of the joys of living in these times is awaiting a new McEwan novel.
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on May 28, 2002
.............Wow, what a wild ride this was.
It's about Mary and Colin, a dating couple in a stale 7 year relationship. While on vacation in an un-named location, which you are never told where they are but you know they are amongst lots of other tourists, open air cafe's by the ocean, narrow cobble stone streets, ruins and assorted attractions.
One night the couple set out to have a late dinner and become lost. A strange but friendly man named Robert comes to their rescue or so it seems......Robert takes them to a bar which has no food and gets them drunk as he tells them stories about his childhood and his wife Caroline.
Later they run into Robert again and he invites them to his home so he can make up for the other night promising to feed them and introduce them to his wife. That's when ........it all begins........!
I will not give any more away, but Mary and Colin end up recapturing their love only to find themselves involved in something like the "Twilight Zone". I could not put this book down. The ending will amaze you!
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on January 20, 2002
I just finished this book over the weekend. This was the first time I was reading Ian McEwan and loved it, only because of the simple reason: He writes real well. The story centers around two so-called-lovers , Colin and Mary are vacationing in Venice ( We assume that the place is Venice as it is never once mentioned in the book, but the descriptions are good enough to reach that conclusion: Wonder why McEwan did not add the name of the place?)and suddenly bump into a couple - a rather strange couple - Robert and Caroline who seem to be quite odd and it is maybe this weirdness that attracts them to the couple. After this, I won't give away more..All I can say is that this 134 page book was an amazing read for me!! Truly enigmatic!!
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on February 21, 1999
I don't understand the criticism I've read about the plausibility, or the lack thereof, of the plot of TCOS. How plausible are our dreams, or our nightmares? In TCOS, and in his equally disquieting novel, The Cement Garden, McEwan creates characters with no moral grounding, who wander unconsciously through life. This seems to me the essential quality of his characters. Is this so implausible? Haven't we all encountered people who drift dreamily through their lives. For me, McEwan's fiction is too painfully real and, I believe, Ian McEwan is very deserving of whatever praise he receives.
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on March 4, 1998
This book is, I think, the best piece of prose I've ever read. The end is shocking, but on reflection only adds to the beauty of the book. The heat of venice steams from the pages, every word seems hot and sticky. I went to Venice once, when I was very young, and my memories combine perfectly with McEwan's description. It seems as if he's taken a regular length novel and boiled it down into this incredibly intense piece. Not to be missed.
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on February 2, 1998
Ian McEwan creates a real page-turner, with intriguing characters and a climactic scene so tense that I had to put the book down and take a few deep breaths in order to continue reading. The Venice setting is amazingly described and this is a book I strongly recommend for both Thriller and Venice-lovers. Tantalizing, horrifying and compelling book about two naives who've fallen into very perverse company.
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on August 22, 1999
I read the book after seeing the movie. Both were excelent. The dialogue was taken almost word for word from the novel. The book was truly frightening, and I don't read sci-fi for thrills. The evil characters are evil personified, the victims are so very human in their needs, wants and desires. See the movie, but read the book first.
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on October 17, 2001
I loved the book. Couldn't put it down. Although I didn't feel for any of the characters, I also didn't feel anything against them either. It is amazing how it is the story not the characters that McEwan creates. It is the story you will remember most even if you don't want to remember the story.
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on April 8, 1999
I saw the movie first with Helen Mirren & Christopher Walken. It was STUNNING!! I highly recommend the book & the film.
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