My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Sweet Tooth certainly pretends to be a spy novel, but is basically an inflated romance story between an extremely low-level MI5 paper-pusher Serena Frome, who gets the job right out of college and Tom Haley, an inspiring author.
Most of the story actually takes place after page 200 in a 301-page book. The reader will not have missed anything if choosing to start toward the end, and will likely be doing herself a favor for saving time. The words that come to mind are: mindless read, sappy, dull, non-espionage, and a disappointment. After such a good story in Atonement, I expected better.
In Sweet Tooth, however, Serena is hired by MI5 and is in charge of signing up a very young and undiscovered author by the name of Tom Haley in a cultural battle in the UK and Europe during the “soft Cold War” — as the writer puts it — during the years 1972-1974.
There are some historical references along the way and do add to the value. The story, however, is of a tone and voice of those far-too often published novels that are mere entertainment, which is not a bad thing–but this story simply falls short, as if the writer didn’t know where he was going with it.
The last chapter contains a cheap trick (foreshadows throughout the story) of a writer trying to reach versimilitude by negotiating the realms of the actual, which the writer does by having the last chapter as a long letter from Tom to Serena explaining that Tom knew everything about his undercover spy-lover.
Simply: I expected more out of this story. But, if you like easy reads about a love story with some red wine while on the couch with a fire going, then by all means go for it. But if you are looking for a hardcore spy novel, then you are in the wrong place.
- Ian McEwan’s Writing Advice: Try Short Stories (mediabistro.com)
- Ian McEwan: On Making Love Work in Fiction (video) (aerogrammestudio.com)
- Best left to the imagination? (lovesweetandsinister.wordpress.com)
- Random Giveaway 4: A Signed Copy of Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan (randomhouseindia.wordpress.com)
- Amis, Rushdie and McEwan appear together in NY (bigstory.ap.org)
- Book Review: Atonement (Ian McEwan) (cgfewston.me)
- SWEET TOOTH by Ian McEwan (cgfewston.me)
- Movie Review: Atonement (thediaryofellelee.wordpress.com)
CG FEWSTON has been a Visiting Scholar at the American Academy in Rome (Italy), and a Visiting Fellow at Hong Kong’s CityU. He has a B.A. in English, an M.Ed. in Higher Education Leadership (honors), an M.A. in Literature (honors), and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing & Fiction. He was born in Texas in 1979.
He’s the author of several short stories and novels. His works include A Father’s Son (2005), The New America: A Collection (2007), Vanity of Vanities (2011), A Time to Love in Tehran (2015), and forthcoming: Conquergood & the Center of the Intelligible Mystery of Being; Little Hometown, America: A Look Back; A Time to Forget in East Berlin; and, The Endless Endeavor of Excellence.
You can also follow the author on Facebook @ cg.fewston – where he has 400,000+ followers