Ian McEwan is back with a masterpiece to equal Atonement, entwining espionage and love in a thrilling new novel.
Serena Frome, the beautiful mathematician daughter of an Anglican bishop, has a brief affair with an older man during her final year at Cambridge before taking a job with MI5 in London. The year is 1972: Britain, confronting economic disaster, is being torn apart by industrial unrest and terrorism; the Cold War has entered a moribund phase but the fight goes on and British Intelligence hesitates at little to influence hearts and minds. MI5 sends Serena, a compulsive reader of novels, on a secret mission that brings her to Tom Healy, a promising young writer. First she loves his stories, then she begins to love the man. Can she maintain the fiction of her undercover life? What is deception and who is deceiving whom? To answer these questions, Serena must abandon the first rule of espionage--trust no one. Ian McEwan's mastery is more dazzling than ever in this superb story of intrigue, love...and mutual betrayal.
Amazon Best Books of the Month, November 2012: One of McEwan's finest female characters, Serena Frome--"rhymes with plume," the author tells us in the opening line--is both clever and beautiful, a speed-reading lit geek and a math whiz, a 1970s version of the Harvard MBA types who launch life-changing Internet startups. But in the dark and troubled Cold War days in London, there were few options for bright young women. So when a mysterious lover recruits her for the British intelligence service, MI5, Serena throws herself body and soul into an undercover operation code-named Sweet Tooth. What unfolds is a mystery, a romance, and a dazzling display of literary workmanship. Though the action slows to a crawl at times, McEwan is a brilliant and entertaining storyteller whose lines--sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, sometimes wickedly wise--had me reaching for my highlighter. --Neal Thompson