Dan Sandman

03: Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan

In Books, Fiction, Spy on 18/01/2013 at 12:00 pm

If it’s a clear day, from my bedroom window you can see The Shard, London’s tallest building. Recently, I have been using it to measure how foggy it is outside. I see this as firm proof that my family live ‘in the centre of things’.

Primrose Hill is our home and the well know dramatist Allen Bennett lives within a stone’s throw of our house. Below our living room is a library and last year Bennett was part of a successful campaign to save our library from closure by Camden Council. As part of the campaign my mum and dad’s picture appeared in the local rag. Our library is now run by the Primrose Hill Community Association and has therefore changed it’s name from Chalk Farm Library to Primrose Hill Community Library. It is supported by donations and uses volunteer workers.

I picked it up, encouraged by the deadline enforcing 14 Day Book sticker.

The new library is well stocked, mostly because Camden donated their old books, and loans out some of the latest titles including Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan (2012). I picked it up, encouraged by the deadline enforcing 14 Day Book sticker. The renewal slip revealed that the book had been on constant loan; if this book was going to be borrowed by me, I would have act fast. I quickly read the first page and speedily exchanged my library card for the library book.

Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan (inside)

“The renewal slip revealed that the book had been on constant loan”

It was a hardback book. There’s something quite satisfying about holding one of these. They feel more expensive, the print is larger, and you can slip off the cover so it doesn’t slip out of your hands. Inside was a clever spy story, set in 1970s Britain against the backdrop of Cold War politics. It intelligently employs stories within stories and letter writing to great dramatic effect. The story is written in concise prose, well researched, and narrated in the first person. Therefore, the world created is clearly visualised, the plot is believable, and the protagonist is a fully developed character.

"you can slip off the cover so it doesn't slip out of your hands."

“you can slip off the cover so it doesn’t slip out of your hands.”

Sweet Tooth is a good book that could easily be made into a film. It revealed to me a hidden world of cultural espionage that involved big name writers such as George Orwell. The spy game is not represented by the all action James Bond type but by a group of Oxbridge graduates; civil servants working underpaid office jobs. It explores what can happen when love and literature get mixed up with power and politics. The result is an exciting mix and a good story.

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