Amsterdam by Ian McEwan

This book was a departure from my usual reading fare. It’s set in a modern times, whereas I usually prefer historical or fantasy genres, but it was a good change. As I delved deeper in the story, I barely even remembered I was reading a novel taking place in London. Ultimately, the setting wasn’t all that important. The events could have occurred almost anywhere and still carried the same weight.

The premise of Amsterdam is this: Clive, a prominent composer, and Vernon, a hard-hitting editor of a flagging paper, both come together at the death of Molly, a vivacious, former lover whose sudden illness and death robbed her of her outgoing personality. Upon reflection, both men make a pact to help the other end their life if they ever find themselves in the same position as Molly.

As various situations occur, Clive and Vernon find themselves in the midst of tough decisions. In the end, after choosing a self-serving agenda, both men ultimately destroy themselves and each other.

What drove this story was the fascinating tale of self-absorption and misguided moral piety the two main characters display. These are traits which are so prevalent in today’s society, and that’s the main reason this story resonated with me. It’s not a comfortable read. It makes the reader squirm as they’re confronted with unpleasant truths that might mirror their own life. However, that’s what makes this a fantastic novel.


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