A review of this — 7 years ago
Someone gave me this book and said “I’ll think you’ll like it”. Not having read any Ian McEwan, but knowing that a lot of fuss has been made about him, I dived in and waited to see what would happen.
I guess the book is about bereavement and the way the routines of a family adjust to accommodate this. Like all good literature, sex and death are struggling with one another to gain the upper hand. Four kids are left alone in a crumbling house in a desolate part of a nameless city, and following the previously mentioned bereavement, create their own rather strange reality.
There are hints of dark, dark traumas inflicted on the children by their father. These come out to play in a number of “perverse” activities which serve as an attempt to hold everything together. At the same time, the fluidity of identity that marks out adolescence, contributes to the surreal decay and sticky grubbiness underpinning the imagery in the book.
It’s a beautiful book, sparely written with not a word wasted. It takes you into places that cultural taboo prefers you not to think about. It’s unsettling, amusing and absorbing.
And it only takes a couple of hours to read.