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Byron Shire
April 20, 2024

Book review – Sweet Tooth

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Sweet-Tooth1Ian McEwan, Random House pb $19.95

Ian McEwan is perhaps best known from the film of his novel Atonement, in which Keira Knightley gave one of her more powerful performances. He seems to have a real flair for understanding his female characters and this is on show again in Sweet Tooth.

As with Atonement, all is not what it seems on the surface in Sweet Tooth. The first-person narrative by the protagonist, Serena Frome, finds her caught up at the lower end of the espionage food chain following her affair with an older man. She uncovers deceptions and false leads and promotes some of her own, all the while sharing her (and presumably McEwan’s) love of books, even taking a young writer under her wing as part of her intelligence work.

The book is also a fascinating insight into the Britain of 1972, seething with industrial unrest and home-grown terrorism in the wake of the swinging sixties. Some locals might even find resonance with this state of affairs: ‘Without asking too many impertinent questions, the state paid the rent and granted a weekly pension to artists, out-of-work actors, musicians, mystics, therapists and a network of citizens for whom smoking cannabis and talking about it was an engrossing profession, even a vocation.’

~ Michael McDonald


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