On Amsterdam

by Srikanth Mantravadi

McEwan writes well and the two books I have read of his – this and The Comfort of Strangers – maintain splendidly a simmering undercurrent of unease and tension that comes to the fore in the end.In fact the ending of Amsterdam is serene as compared to The Comfort…which spirals to a visceral denouement.This kind of writing is the antithesis of the mass produced thriller that directly appeals to and appeases the adrenaline.It plays subtly on the frazzled nerves of the reader; even the intelligent one who knows all is not hunky dory and is kept guessing till the end.The plotting is straightforward, revolving around two major protagonists who are linked by a late common lover, but it is the writing that elevates it.McEwan wades through the moral morass that the protagonists fall into with a light touch. The narrative mostly flows from the internal thoughts of Clive and Vernon and this is an exceptional way to keep the reader engaged with their most intimate thoughts.

The prose is crisp and elegant and the book ends when it should.