Author: Ian McEwan
Publisher: Jonathan Cape
Release Date: August 23rd 2012
Genre(s): Historical Fiction
Purchase: The Book Depository | Amazon
❝ Cambridge student Serena Frome’s beauty and intelligence make her the ideal recruit for MI5. The year is 1972. The Cold War is far from over. England’s legendary intelligence agency is determined to manipulate the cultural conversation by funding writers whose politics align with those of the government. The operation is code-named “Sweet Tooth.”
Serena, a compulsive reader of novels, is the perfect candidate to infiltrate the literary circle of a promising young writer named Tom Haley. At first, she loves his stories. Then she begins to love the man. How long can she conceal her undercover life? To answer that question, Serena must abandon the first rule of espionage: trust no one. ❞
Though I took my sweet time with it, this book was really enjoyable. The plot captivated me from beginning to end and this is one of those rare cases where the flaws of a female character only made me love her more.
As always, McEwan managed to depict this story of espionage and betrayal with beautiful prose. He has a descriptive and poetic writing style and manages again and again to capture the mood perfectly. Part of the reason why I’ve become such a big fan of his books is because of his writing style.
One of my favorite things about this book is the setting the author chose. I know the basics of the Cold War but that’s about how far my knowledge goes. Though the book did educate me slightly on this matter, it is mainly the time period itself and the position of women in it that interested me. McEwan truly did an amazing job on depicting the spirit of the time. Sometimes I could even imagine myself walking the streets along side the main character.
In addition, the plot was very interesting and exciting. I loved the whole MI5 business and the way the protagonist got tangled up in a web of lies, torn between pleasure and her duty. The Sweet Tooth operation, though not a very interesting operation in itself, was made exciting through some mysterious events and by the decisions Serena made during the operation. Since I’m a feminist of sorts, I also loved the tiny aspects that showed inequality between women and men.
Though I liked the book well enough halfway through, I think it was towards the end of the book that I started to love it. There was a brilliant plot twist that I, for one, had not seen coming and it turned things around completely. Furthermore, I thought the ending was the perfect conclusion to the story. Not rushed at all or incomplete, but still with that hint of mysteriousness present.
The only thing that bothered me a bit about Sweet Tooth is that, though McEwan has a beautiful writing style, the story was a bit long-winded at times. Especially in the beginning some descriptions were too long and I felt like he dwelled too long on a particular scene.
Despite this, I loved the book and would recommend it to anyone who is interested in the Cold War and secret operations, or if you like reading about strong female characters.