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His early stories and novels were all cool posts perversity, a high-end parade of deadpan macabre and kink and sideshow eccentricity: ghastly death, corpses and butchery, bestiality, incest and pedophilia, insanity, dwarves. What Serena really enjoys is reading fiction. I wanted characters I could believe in. Our parents had the war to be boring about.
We had this. Organizing an undercover operation code-named Sweet Tooth, this fictional MI5 contrives to pay long-term stipends, through a front foundation, to 10 up-and-coming writers. This is a slow-burn thing. They promptly begin an affair and fall in love. She keeps him in the dark about his true patrons. For all the modish noir of his early work, McEwan has always been a good old-fashioned teller of tales, and the suspense and surprises in this book are well engineered.
Serena tells Tom and us again and again that she has no use for the illusion-busting postmodern novelists he adores. I believed that writers were paid to pretend. The invented had to be as solid and self-consistent as the actual.
McEwan, however, has his cake and eats it, until the last chapter keeping us unaware of the metafictional con under way. Unlike her co-workers, who tell family and friends they work for MI5, Serena unnecessarily gives a cover story, turning herself into a kind of fictional character. You imagine things — and you can make them come true. McEwan studs the novel with well-known Britons, both named his former publisher, his former editor, his friend Martin Amis and lightly fictionalized.
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Sweet Tooth Reader’s Guide
A reliable pleasure in Ian McEwan's work has always been the brilliance of his openings. Whether he's aiming for the big set-piece, as in the ballooning scene of Enduring Love , or something more like the casual stealth of the couple's afternoon awakening in The Comfort of Strangers , his tales cast their spells quickly and irresistibly. One reads him, of course, with the expectation of a story in which something terrible will occur, and that expectation is now a part of the alchemy. Fraught questions begin seething almost immediately in the reader's mind. Who is going to be harmed? Will the harm be emotional, physical, or both? In what richly inventive ways will the setting — Dorset coast, south of France wilderness — facilitate the inevitable crisis?
Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan – review
Why do you believe that the author chose to set a contemporary novel in the England of the s during the lingering Cold War? What contemporary or otherwise timeless themes is McEwan able to treat by adopting this political-historical backdrop? McEwan chooses to employ a female protagonist. Is she convincing? What surprises you about her character? Consider your response and reaction to her character. Is she likeable?
Data Protection Choices
I t's more than 20 years since Ian McEwan published The Innocent , a tale of a gauche young Englishman failing miserably and dangerously as a cold-war spy in Berlin. McEwan's latest novel may be set in , with the cold war shuffling through its final lacklustre phase, but it could not be more different in tone or intent from The Innocent. Where that novel felt stark and dirty and real, Sweet Tooth is playful, comic, preposterous even. But it's impossible to ignore that its protagonist is a young and fairly gauche English person — female this time — failing miserably though perhaps not so dangerously in her job as a spy. Serena Frome — blond, "rather gorgeous" and "rhymes with plume" — graduates with a third in maths. A speed-reader of novels, she toys at first with an English degree but is persuaded by her mother that it's her "duty as a woman" to grapple instead with numbers. At Cambridge she falls, in an equally dutiful, quasi-somnambulant way, into an affair with a much older, much married history professor and finds herself being groomed for an interview with MI5.
It deals with the experiences of its protagonist, Serena Frome, during the early s. After graduating from Cambridge she is recruited by MI5 , and becomes involved in a covert program to combat communism by infiltrating the intellectual world. When she becomes romantically involved with her mark, complications ensue. McEwan wanted to write a novel dealing with the social turmoil of the s, and Sweet Tooth is to a large extent based on his own life. The story explores the relationship between artistic integrity and government propaganda, and addresses competing approaches to literature; the boundary between reality and fiction is tested throughout.