Cressida Connolly

Cleverly Done

Enduring Love

By

Jonathan Cape 256pp £15.99 order from our bookshop

The opening chapter of Ian McEwan’s latest novel is a tour de force. As in Thornton Wilder’s The Bridge of San Luis Rey – a marvellous novella, still unaccountably underrated – a large cast is introduced in a moment of breathtaking drama. In Wilder’s story, it is as they plunge to their deaths from a breaking bridge; in McEwan’s, the story begins as a hot-air balloon lunges out of control, bringing tragedy to a spring morning above the Chilterns. But the two writers place very different interpretations upon death and destiny. In Wilder’s hands, what looks like a freak misadventure turns out to have been determined from on high. It is God’s Plan to make sense of the chaos, redeeming the suffering. McEwan’s vision is different: here, logical positivism rules. Accidents occur randomly, without meaning – or, as the Americans put it: shit happens.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • Lecture on war and peace in 19th-century Europe by Professor Sir Richard Evans, Thurs 25 Oct, 6.30pm Europe House… ,
    • 'Why, throughout the world, are so many people fascinated by the fiction and reality of espionage? And why of all p… ,
    • . here on books, Muriel Spark and life's tangled dance ,
    • RT : There aren't enough aggressive subtitles these days: ,
    • Churchill's on the cover of the October edition of the magazine. Piers Brendon reviews two new books about the Brit… ,
    • 'Readers have no more power to predict where the next story is going to take them than the prisoners had to determi… ,
    • 'Ho was no Soviet or Chinese puppet. He was a nationalist first and foremost. Had the Americans just realised this.… ,