He has a way of, shall I say, working through what could be perceived as weaknesses? Because what I thought was the weakest part of Sweet Tooth ended up being either entirely intentionally crafted (and, if so, very exceptionally crafted, I dare say) by McEwan or deftly subverted so as to take weakness and essentially negate it — and the thing is, I can’t decide which it is, though I lean towards the former because I do very much trust McEwan as an author.
(Sweet Tooth has yet to be published Stateside, so I’ll put the rest under a link. There are no narrative spoilers, and my thoughts are actually quite muddled at the moment, but, regardless …)
Sweet Tooth isn’t McEwan’s finest novel, but I wasn’t expecting it to be (it may have been the first-person, it may have been the female narrator, it may have been the disappointment that was Solar after the brilliance that was On Chesil Beach …), but I tend to opine that an average book by McEwan is still better than a great book by an average writer. If anything, McEwan knows how to use words, how to delve into characters’ minds to the point of discomfort really (see: On Chesil Beach), and I’d say the odd part of Sweet Tooth was that this novel seemed to be largely absent both, at least on the surface level. I must emphasize, though, that the operative word in that thought is “seemed” because McEwan does bring the novel together at the end so that everything you (or, at least, I) expect from McEwan actually ends up having been very present throughout the novel, even if it didn’t appear so at the time.
I’m still mulling over Sweet Tooth — finished it earlier this afternoon — and I like that I’m still turning it over in my head. Initially, when I’d first completed it, I set it down without really thinking much of it honestly, but, then, I went out to grab a sandwich and found the novel shadowing me, and the more clever aspects of it caught up with me as I waited to cross a street. In the end, I do conclude that it’s a very complete novel and that McEwan has presented us with a more-than-satisfactory new book but that Sweet Tooth could still have been tightened up here and there, could have been better, even great.
I scribbled down comments in the margins of my book (ha, I came to law school, was told that we should not only be highlighting but also writing down comments in the margins, decided not to apply that to my law school reading but to my fiction reading instead), but I can’t decide how my initial criticisms of Sweet Tooth work now that I’ve read the novel all the way through. I may read the novel again actually to see if and how my initial criticisms have changed, and I realise that I’m being ambiguous here, but, as I said, I’m still mulling over this novel — but, as I’m typing these words, I’m thinking that, maybe, McEwan deserves more credit because, damn, if there’s one thing I think he does excellently, it’s the ending. I’ve read a whole lot of his books, and I can’t think of one where the ending wasn’t spectacular.
Okay, except for Solar because I kind of found that entire book forgettable except for the beautiful prose …
Bah more on Sweet Tooth later, probably after I’ve read it a second time.