The year is 1972, the Cold War is far from over and Serena Frome, in her final year at Cambridge, is being groomed for MI5. Sent on Operation Sweet Tooth – a highly secret undercover mission – she meets Tom Haley, 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? And who is inventing whom? To answer these questions, Serena must abandon the first rule of espionage – trust no one.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
This novel from the author of Atonement is the story of a young woman who becomes involved in the world of espionage. Or is it? McEwan’s genius lies in his playfulness with the form, leaving you with much more to think about once you’ve finished the book.
McEwan goes for laughs in this cold war spoof in which Serena Frome, one time math whiz, struggles through Cambridge and graduates in 1972 with an embarrassing third. For reasons never satisfactorily explained, a professor and former MI5 operative recruits her as a spy. Serena's soon in love, not for the last time in the story, no matter that he's 54, long married and sickly, or that she's 21, gorgeous, and in a relationship. She's a voracious reader, and her familiarity with contemporary fiction earns her an assignment to persuade a writer with anti-Soviet leanings to abandon academia and write full-time, supported by funding whose source he can never know. Espionage fans won't find much that's credible, and fans of political farce might be surprised by a narrative less focused on lampooning MI5 than on mocking (mostly female) readers. Given the nonstop wisecracks, the book might be most satisfying if read as sheer camp. A twist confirms that the misogyny isn't to be taken seriously, but Serena's intellectual inferiority is a joke that takes too long to reach its punch line. McEwan devotees may hope that in his next novel he returns to characterizations deeper than the paper they're printed on.
Keep going it gets better and what a climax and I was almost at the point of losing faith. Thanks so much for a wonderful novel!
Sweet Tooth review
Sorry Ian, but I did ńot like it. In the WRP we knew about
Encounter etc, but it just seemed contemptible. Your Guardian articles about apocalyptic cults were much more useful.
Your protagonist in this book just did not appeal. Loved all your
Other novels tho. - Nick Lewis
Loved Saturday and most of McEwan... But this felt like pastiche and has a deeply dull central character