Micro-Review #120: Amsterdam

by Ian McEwan

Clive and Vernon are best friends in London in the 1990s. Clive is a renowned symphony composer, while Vernon runs a flagging newspaper. When a mutual lover dies after a long illness, they enter into a pact: If either of them suffers mental decline, the other will be obliged to carry out a merciful, if illegal, euthanasia. It’s pretty clear where this story is destined to go, but since the author is one of the UK’s best writers, it’s a dark, comic trip that’s well worth taking.

Lovers of light reads be warned. This isn’t a laugh-a-minute tale. It’s a dense, beautifully written horror novel of a comedy, with abundant internal monologue and soaring linguistic descriptions of an art form (music) that you rarely see in other novels. It’s a smart, engrossing book, even if the premise and the ending seem a touch banal.

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