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Chris Blocker

Literary snobbery and other thoughts by Chris Blocker

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Amsterdam: A Novel

Amsterdam - Ian McEwan

Amsterdam is a short, easy to read novel by Ian McEwan. It is the only book of McEwan's to win the Booker Prize despite several nominations, which is slightly surprising given the brevity of this one. That's not to say that a short novel cannot win a prize, but Amsterdam feels less like a short novel, and more like a long short story. As such, I find it difficult to say much about this one.

Amsterdam is amusing at times. The ways in which its two leads relish in their ideas of grandeur are both laughable and alarming. The way McEwan begins the story with two men talking at a funeral and ends it in a similar fashion may be a simple technique, but is executed well in this piece. Amsterdam is a clever work, a very British novel. It reminds me greatly of two other Booker winners, also British, The Sense of an Ending and The Remains of the Day, though, of the three, Amsterdam is the least polished, in my opinion.

McEwan seems to be forever a writer that garners polarizing opinions. Given his body of work, I doubt he'll ever shake this. His stories are too literary for some, too mainstream for others. He relies significantly on surprise endings and plot conveniences that anger many from both camps. That being said, I rather like McEwan. I recognize the arguments of the naysayers, occasionally I even agree, but for me McEwan remains a guilty pleasure. In fact, given the brevity of Amsterdam I'm already ready for more. Sweet Tooth here I come