D J Taylor

Been There, Done That

Sweet Tooth


Jonathan Cape 323pp £18.99 order from our bookshop

Although his last outing, Solar (2010), showed traces of that very un-McEwanish quality, a sense of humour, most readers asked to come up with Ian McEwan’s defining characteristic as a novelist would settle for the earnestness that runs through his work like the lettering through a stick of rock. Thirty years ago, in The Comfort of Strangers, he was being earnest about the women’s movement. Come the mid-Eighties, in the oratorio Or Shall We Die?, he was being earnest about the Bomb. Just lately he has been earnest about such problems as US intervention in the Middle East, the unconsummated marriages of the Macmillan era and global warming.

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