Review: Sweet Tooth

◆ Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan
◆ Read February/March 2014
◆ English Edition

❝ 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.

Once again, Ian McEwan’s mastery dazzles us in this superbly deft and witty story of betrayal and intrigue, love and the invented self.❞
Though I took my sweet time with it, this book is really enjoyable. The plot captivated me from beginning to end and this is one of those rare cases where the flaws of a female character only made me love her more.

As always, McEwan managed to capture this story of espionage and betrayal with his beautiful prose. He has a descriptive and poetic writing style and manages again and again to capture the mood perfectly. Part of the reason why I've become such a big fan of his books is because of his prose.

One of my favorite things about this book is the setting the author chose. I know the basics of the Cold War but that's about how far my knowledge goes. Though the book did educate me slightly on this matter, it is mainly the time period itself and the position of women in it that interested me. McEwan truly did an amazing job on depicting the spirit of the time. Sometimes I could even imagine myself walking the streets along side main character Serena.

In addition, the story line was very interesting and exciting. I loved the whole MI5 business and the way the protagonist got tangled up in a web of lies, torn between pleasure and her duty. The Sweet Tooth operation, though not a very interesting operation in itself, was made exciting some very mysterious events and by the decisions Serena made during the operation. Lastly, since I'm a feminist of sorts, I loved the tiny aspects that showed inequality between women and men.

Though I liked the book well enough halfway through, I think it was towards the end of the book that I started to love it. There is a brilliant plot twist that I for one had not seen coming and it turned things around completely. Furthermore, I thought the ending was the perfect conclusion to the story. Not rushed at all or incomplete, but still with that hint of mysteriousness present.

The only thing that bothered me a bit about Sweet Tooth is that, though McEwan has a beautiful writing style, the story was a bit long-winded at times. Especially in the beginning some descriptions were too long and I felt like he dwelled too long on a particular scene.

Despite this one bad aspect, I loved the book though and would recommend it to anyone who is interested in the Cold War and secret operations, or simply if you like strong female characters.

4 stars because:
✓ Beautiful prose
✓ Good depiction of the spirit of the time
✓ Exciting storyline
✓ Brilliant plot twist
✗Long-winded at times


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