Book Review: Sweet Tooth

Sweet Tooth - Ian McEwan

Book: Sweet Tooth


Author: Ian McEwan


Genre: Spy Thriller/Fiction/Romance


Summary: Cambridge student Serena Frome's beauty and intelligence make her the ideal recruit for MI5. The year is 1972. The Cold War is far from over. England's legendary intelligence agency is determined to manipulate the cultural conversation by funding writers whose politics align with those of the government. The operation is code named "Sweet Tooth". Serena, a compulsive reader of novels, is the perfect candidate to infiltrate the literary circle of a promising young writer named Tom Haley. At first, she loves his stories. Then she begins to love the man. How long can she conceal her undercover life? To answer that question, Serena must abandon the first rule of espionage: trust no one. - Anchor Books Random House, 2012.


This was my first Ian McEwan novel that I read without seeing it as a film first. I wasn't sure what to expect and knowing that McEwan has a reputation of good twists, I dove in to see if there would be one here.


Spoilers will be kept to a minimum.


Maybe it was the content, but this novel was not for me. It did nothing for me. I immediately disliked Serena within reading the first few pages - whether or not this is a result of the twist, I'm not sure. I think I'll always be unsure. For all of her beauty and intelligence, they don't seem to truly aid her in any meaningful ways. I didn't like her narrative style either - this might also be tied to the twist, but I can't be certain there either. Luckily, the book was easy enough to read so I could get through it as fast as possible. I just wanted to read it through and finish it so I didn't have to linger with it.


I got the impression that McEwan was writing more lazily this time. There was hardly any indication of effort in his writing, yet it was still full of details and his knowledge of 1970s Britain is clearly masterful if not from research, then from experience. The world of 1970s Cold War Britain was very vivid. The characters and their personalities were also extremely vivid and memorable.


I will say though that the twist ending was very clever. I caught hints of it as I was reading and finding out the full extent of the deception was rewarding in its own right.


I think McEwan's writing and storytelling just isn't my style. Anyone who likes spy thrillers and twist endings will enjoy it.


I give Sweet Tooth a B-.




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