Having devoured several of his previous novels, Atonement, On Chesil Beach, Enduring Love, Solar, I was eager to read this latest one.
I’ve read that McEwan shadows different personality types (e.g.followed around physicists to glean their character traits – inspiration for his lead character in Solar). Reading Solar two years ago, I was particularly delighted by the accuracy which sums up the intellectual arrogance and power playing displayed by Professor Michael Beard.
As with his previous books, I also expected the delights of plot twist that elevate you from sullen expectation. And so, with my newly acquired Ipad, and desire to try out an ebook, I bought McEwan’s latest.
Serena Frome (rhymes with plume) is yet another lead character whose mind we delight in walking around with. A reluctant Cambridge mathematics major (whose real passion is English Literature) is led into the secret intelligence service after graduating with a ‘third’ (third class in maths). The novel captures the era of young women forging careers in the cold war in Britain era prior to the mega feminist movement – I guess quite well (having not lived through it myself).
After acquainting us with her experiences at university to securing her job with the secret service, Serena’s first major project as a spy leads her into a complicated relationship with a writer.
Without giving away too much more I will say that the portrayal of Serena was brilliant. Having raced through this as an ebook though, I didn’t have a good sense of how much more of the book I had to go. Based on McEwan’s previous work, I expected more ‘meat’ from the plot (to which this novel was a little bereft).
The ‘surprise’ twist ending, was not so much of a surprise (as I expected a surprise based on prior novels) and a little disappointingly obvious – perhaps this was mingled with the lack of physical sense I got from the length of the book on my reading device.