Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Enduring Love by Ian McEwan

Best-selling author, Ian McEwan has a knack for stories that slowly build for the reader right up until the precipice.  According to WikiPedia, Ian Russell McEwan (born 21 June 1948 14 days after my birthday) is an English novelist and screenwriter.  In 2008, The London Times featured him on their list of "The 50 greatest British writers since 1945" and The Daily Telegraph ranked him number 19 in their list of the "100 most powerful people in British culture."  In 1998, he won The Booker Prize for Amsterdam.  This 1997 novel, Enduring Love is among a few of his early works I have eagerly devoured. 

Joe and Clarissa have what seems to be an ideal marriage.  Clarissa is a therapist, who is dedicated to her profession.  Joe has a doctorate in physics, but his research interests have withered.  He is now a successful freelance writer.  Clarissa has been away for some time, and when she returns from her latest job, they want to rekindle their relationship with a romantic picnic.  McEwan writes, “The beginning is simple to mark.  We were in sunlight under a turkey oak, partly protected from a strong, gusty wind.  I was kneeling on the grass with a corkscrew in my hand, and Clarissa was passing me the bottle—a 1987 Dauman Gassac,  This was the moment, this was the pin prick on the time map: I was stretching out my hand, and as the cool neck and the black foil touched my palm, we heard a man’s shout.  We turned to look across the field and saw the danger.  Next thing, I was running toward it.  The transformation was absolute: I don’t recall dropping the corkscrew, or getting to my feet, or making a decision, or hearing the caution Clarissa called after me.  What idiocy, to be racing into this story and its labyrinths, sprinting away from out happiness among the fresh spring grasses by the oak.  There was the shout again, and a child’s cry, enfeebled by the wind that roared in the tall trees along the hedgerows.  I ran faster.  And there, suddenly, from different points around the field, four other men were converging on the scene, running like me” (1). 

This opening paragraph displays the real power of McEwan as a writer.  His attention to details, the split-second reaction, all led Joe to a nightmare of unusual proportions.  In two appendices, McEwan spells out a peculiar affliction known as “de Clerambault’s Syndrome.  Joe becomes a victim, when one of the men, who attempted to rescue a child in the out-of-control balloon, directs his obsession to Joey.  Unfortunately, no one has seen Jed, he has no police record, and the stress is damaging Joe and Clarissa’s marriage.

I was amused by some of the stories Joe heard from his students, and similar stories from Clarissas’s patient.  McEwan writes, “The student [Clarissa] supervised yesterday, a raw girl from Lancaster, phoned her in tears and shouted incoherently.  When Clarissa calmed her down, the girl accused her of setting her impossible reading tasks and of sending her up blind alleys of research.  The Romantic poetry seminar went badly because two students appointed to give discussion papers had prepared nothing and the rest of the kids had not bothered with the reading” (85).  Joe has a similar experience with one of his students. 

Ian McEwan is a masterful story teller with deep and interesting examinations of the mind.  No one believes Joe, and he begins researching the syndrome.  The marriage begins to shred.  The climax of Enduring Love is unforgettable.  5 stars.

--Chiron, 6/13/18

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