A friend who shares my fondness for “authors from the Brit circle”, such as Julian Barnes, sent me this book, a thoughtful and loving get-well gift. I had read just one other by McEwan – On Chesil Beach – which I did not love, or even really like. The writing was good, but the story felt contrived, as if he’d had an idea for one impressive scene, and had built a whole novel to lead up to it. The ending was anticlimactic, almost premature (if you know the story, you’ll understand how ironic that is). But I decided to give him another chance.
This novel was much better, and enjoyed the story and writing – even eagerly reading it over just a few days and late-ish nights, finishing much more quickly than I normally would (again, irony). However, the denouement again felt rushed – as if there was an inevitable outcome that, once fully revealed (it was foreshadowed pretty heavy-handedly through the last chapter), left the author and characters with nothing more to say or do. Although only loosely based on real cases, the great detail about the case law, the specific courtroom dialogue and procedure, and the private lives of judges bordered on non-fiction, which took away from the character development, giving most of them a caricature feel rather than depth or empathy.
So, overall wouldn’t recommend it. Like the previous novel I read, I felt that the story might have benefitted from a shorter format or a longer epilogue.
7. A book written by a male author.