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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
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...
Published on June 28 2005 by Herb Betts

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Cold in Amsterdam
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...
Published on Feb. 23 2007 by E. A Solinas


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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Cold in Amsterdam, Feb. 23 2007
By 
E. A Solinas "ea_solinas" (MD USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 10 REVIEWER)    (HALL OF FAME)   
This review is from: Amsterdam (Paperback)
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.

Aside from the characters, the prose is simple and straightforward: it describes what the characters do, but very little of what they think. As a result, some of the actions -- such as Clive watching a woman being attacked -- seem almost random. But in places, such as Mrs. Garmony's public speech about her husband and Vernon, his brilliance shines forth, and the entire ending is lit up by the irony.

So while an acceptable novel by most standards, it's perhaps the least of McEwan's works thus far. Has its moments of pure brilliance, but in large patches, it's dreary and empty.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Split Personality?, May 14 2014
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This review is from: Amsterdam (Paperback)
Having first read "Saturday" and "The Innocent" I pushed through "Amsterdam" only because I was waiting for Ian McEwan's brilliance to turn up. Is it a trick, I wondered? Perhaps I have the wrong McKewan?
But no. I am somewhat in shock. Perhaps Mr. McKewan has two levels of writing personalities? This is a case of apples and oranges. Astonishing. Wish I could get my money and time back, and sustain the blown mind I enjoyed after the two above - mentioned books
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Where's the beef?, Oct. 22 2008
By 
Jack Blatant (Ontario, Canada) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Amsterdam (Paperback)
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 Chinese food: full, but hungry and unsatisfied shortly thereafter.

I'm not going to be the guy who drops spoilers in a review, but my word, does anyone else see the echoes of Graham Greene's "Our Man in Havana?" Maybe I just read them too closely together and conflated them circumstantially.

At any rate, I'm glad that I borrowed the book, and didn't pay for it... scandalous as it may be to say that in an online bookseller review.
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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
By 
Erez Gordon (Melbourne, Australia) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Amsterdam (Paperback)
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 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars And not a tulip in sight, June 28 2005
This review is from: Amsterdam (Paperback)
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
4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Start, Lukewarm Ending, May 14 2004
By 
JRU (PARRAMATTA, AUSTRALIA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Amsterdam (Hardcover)
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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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars There's nothing about the coffee-shops..., Aug. 12 2008
This review is from: Amsterdam (Paperback)
An ex-photographer and a well known restaurant critic, Molly Lane had been a beautiful, lively and funny lady. Her life had, sadly, been cut short through illness - a condition that had began with something as simple as a tingling in her arm. "Amsterdam" opens in early February, at Molly's memorial service.

Despite being married to George, Mollie had been a rather prolific lover - she'd had a string of affairs and (apparently) never really cared for her husband. However, for some reason, she'd never actually left him. George is the head of a publishing `empire', one that operates in the crackpot conspiracy theories sector. His company also own a very small percentage of `The Judge', a `quality' newspaper based in London. He appears to be a morose, possessive man - a vaguely ridiculous character, though one who may have genuinely loved his wife. George had cared for Molly himself throughout her illness, rather than installing her in a home.

Among the mourners is Clive Linley, a famous and successful composer who had known Molly from their student days. He had been one of Molly's former lovers and is possibly a little deluded : he is convinced that he was the only one who had ever truly loved her, and that it should have been him who married her. Clive is currently writing the Millennial Symphony and, although it's close to completion, it's something that seems to be causing him a little stress. (A trip to the Lake District may just be the tonic he needs - Clive enjoys hiking, and sometimes visits the area when in need of inspiration). Unfortunately, Clive's stress levels aren't helped by vague tingle in his hand...and fears he has the same early symptoms that Molly had shown. Clive feels that Molly's decline robbed her of her dignity, and - given the opportunity - he believes he would have `helped' her die. When he decides that he'd want the same thing for himself, there's only one person he would ask to help him.

Vernon Halliday is Clive's oldest friend and another of Molly's ex-lovers. He and Molly had lived together for a year in Paris, though he's currently based in London. He's currently the editor of `The Judge' - a position he'd won by being generally inoffensive, getting wildly lucky with a major scoop and then not being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The previous four editors had been fired for failing to improve the newspaper's declining sales...Vernon is hoping to avoid their fate, by taking the newspaper towards the tabloid end of the market. Unfortunately, the situation seems to be getting to him a little, and he's feeling a little stretched. Like Clive, Vernon doesn't have a very high opinion of George - oddly enough, though, George may be in a position to offer both Vernon and the newspaper a helping hand. When going through Molly's effects, he'd stumbled across s few tasty photos of Julian Garmony - another on Molly's ex-lovers, and a high-ranking politician that both Vernon and Clive positively detest...

Garmony is a thoroughly unpleasant individual, a nasty xenophobe who (amazingly) holds the position of Foreign Secretary. (It's probably the sort of appointment a politician would probably find quite logical. Sadly, and unsurprisingly, he's also the hot favourite to be the next Prime Minister). He's strongly in favour of hanging, a punishment he once felt should have been applied to Nelson Mandela. (It's a position that should make his upcoming trip to South Africa a little spicy). Unfortunately, Clive and Vernon disagree on what should be done with the photos...Vernon is very keen to publishing them, and Garmony could well do with having the rug pulled from under his feet. However, Clive feels that publishing them would be a betrayal of Molly's trust...

In "Amsterdam", McEwan presents a collection of characters that aren't too easy to admire. It's really very difficult to feel any sympathy for Garmony, given his divisive views. George, Molly's husband, is the one character we probably should feel sorry for, but - by the book's end - I was left wondering why she had ever married him to begin with. Clive and Vernon's friendship fragments as time passes, with Clive (in particular) becoming increasingly deluded as the book progresses. Not great, though a short and easily read book.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but not a masterpiece, March 4 2004
By 
Susie Sharon (Orleans, Ontario Canada) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Amsterdam (Paperback)
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. But the major problem is that the most interesting person, Georges, is only hinted at, at the very end. I wished he would have been introduced a bit more properly.
Still a goor read but by no means equal to Atonement.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Amsterdumb, Nov. 5 2011
This review is from: Amsterdam (Paperback)
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?

Some reviews have lamented the fact that Amsterdam won the Booker but the Booker has often rewarded mediocre works in order to make up for perceived snubs (Amsterdam for McEwan's Enduring Love), give life-time achievement awards (Jacobson's The Finkler Question) or scathing/sensational works (Adiga's The White Tiger). The most egregious offense was the awarding of the Booker to DBC Pierre's Vernon God Little, which if purchased, is nothing more than expensive toilet paper. Unfortunately, I bought this book before I was aware of the inconsistency of the Booker and I should have done more research before buying Amsterdam.

Amsterdam's most redeeming quality is that it passes by quickly and then you can forget about it. Everything about the book seems superficial in terms of description of events and character development. As a result, I never connected with the two main characters (Clive and Vernon) and didn't care what happened to them. To me, this is the major problem with Amsterdam since Clive and Vernon are thoroughly unlikeable individuals (arrogant, conceited, condescending), their one-dimensionality makes it so I have no sympathy for them when things go wrong or even to think "ya, you deserve that".

The plot, once the euthanasia angle comes in during the back half of the book, is extremely implausible. I really don't think people who are supposedly highly-educated and consider themselves brilliant would react the way they did to an argument between life-long friends, especially on Vernon's side. I don't want to spoil the plot for anyone who wants to read the book by giving the context but suffice it to say, I laughed and not in a good way. McEwan could have done much, much more with this topic and I thought he would have based on the product description.

An uncharacteristic misfire for a brilliant author.
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2.0 out of 5 stars City of sin, July 18 2004
By 
This review is from: Amsterdam (Hardcover)
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 yet spoken, but pointing the obvious is not the kind of thing that something that pretends to be artistic should strive to do. Consider the weak presentation of characters, consider the plotline that has been seen in many B movies out there, though I must confess, in first few chapters of the book, philosophy outshines the mere plot, consider the ending adequate to some "dark form" of Barbara Cartland and you'll have in your hands something that received the Booker Prize for who knows what reason. We do have deep moral philosophy here, we do have macabre solution of ethical conflict, we do have even the satire, but what we don't have is writing talent and the ability to keep the reader occupied with it. You'll not miss the thing if you skip this one.
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Amsterdam
Amsterdam by Ian McEwan (Paperback - May 25 1999)
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