Trudy has betrayed her husband, John. She's still in the marital home — a dilapidated, priceless London townhouse — but not with John. Instead, she's with his brother, the profoundly banal Claude, and the two of them have a plan. But there is a witness to their plot: the inquisitive, nine-month-old resident of Trudy's womb.
Told from a perspective unlike any other, is a classic tale of murder and deceit from one of the world’s master storytellers.
Fiona Maye is a leading High Court judge who presides over cases in the family court. She is renowned for her fierce intelligence, exactitude, and sensitivity. But her professional success belies private sorrow and domestic strife. There is the lingering regret of her childlessness, and now her marriage of thirty years is in crisis.
At the same time, she is called on to try an urgent case: Adam, a beautiful seventeen-year-old boy, is refusing for religious reasons the medical treatment that could save his life, and his devout parents echo his wishes. Time is running out. Should the secular court overrule sincerely expressed faith? In the course of reaching a decision, Fiona visits Adam in the hospital—and encounter that stirs long-buried feelings in her and powerful new emotions in the boy. Her judgment has momentous consequences for them both.
Call them transcripts of dreams or deadly accurate maps of the tremor zones of the psyche, the seven stories in this collection engage and implicate us in the most fearful ways imaginable. A two-timing pornographer becomes an unwilling object in the fantasies of one of his victims. A jaded millionaire buys himself the perfect mistress and plunges into a hell of jealousy and despair. And in the course of a weekend with his teenage daughter, a guilt-ridden father discovers the depths of his own blundering innocence.
At once chilling and beguiling, and written in prose of lacerating beauty, is a tour de force by one of England’s most acclaimed practitioners of literary unease.
“McEwan proves himself to be an acute psychologist of the ordinary mind.”
“A writer in full control of his materials… In [his] short stories, the effect acheived by McEwan’s quiet, precise and sensual touch is that of magic realism—a transfiguration of the ordinary that has a … strong visceral impact.”
Customarily, McEwan’s novels spring from a catastrophic incident in someone’s life, either a calamity that causes physical distress or a psychological trespass that causes emotional instability. For instance, in Enduring Love (1998), a man plunges to his death from a balloon, and in the aftermath, one witness continues to menace another witness. On Chesil Beach (2007) centers on an emotionally devastating wedding night. In his new novel, McEwan outdoes himself in terms of catastrophic occurrences. The protagonist, physicist Michael Beard, won a Nobel Prize several years ago and has been resting on his laurels ever since. A serial cheater, he is now married to his fifth wife, who leads a totally separate life, indicating her complete disdain for his wandering eye. His lack of effort in applying himself to either career or fidelity only increases our dislike of him. Even he says of himself, “No one loved him.” An accidental death in which he was involved and which he covered up, a politically incorrect statement aired before a professional audience, and his usurpation of the research of a deceased colleague: readers are taxed to even care about these crises. This draggy novel stands in stark contrast to its many beautiful predecessors, but McEwan is regarded as a major contemporary British novelist, so expect demand on that basis.