Review of Enduring Love by Ian McEwan

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A kind soul lent me this book after a discussion in one of my Creative Writing classes about dramatic beginnings. And he certainly wasn’t wrong…

enduringloveJoe Rose has planned a romantic picnic with his lover Clarissa after having been away on business. However, the delightful idyll is horribly interrupted when a hot air balloon, attempting a landing, starts to break away from its moorings with a ten year old boy inside. Joe, along with a number of other men, rush to try and anchor it. But when the sudden wind strengthens and Joe finds himself suddenly jerked off his feet as someone else lets go, he follows suit – until only one man, John Logan, is left hanging on – until he plunges to his death… Shocked at the terrible accident and feeling guilty for letting go, Joe rushes to the spot where the dead man is lying and encounters Jed Parry. They exchange a passing glance and Jed, suffering from de Clerambault’s syndrome, immediately falls passionately in love with Joe, with dire consequences.

The novel is a close examination about the nature of love. As Jed’s misplaced passion creates increasing problems for Joe, his relationship with Clarissa suffers. Joe also feels impelled to visit John Logan’s widow – only to discover that she is convinced that her dead husband was entertaining a lover at the time of the accident. Sickened by the discovery, Jean Logan is bitter and furious, rather than grieving…

I found the book a riveting read. These days, I don’t generally bother with literary novels, but this really is excellent. The steadily building tension as Joe struggles to cope with Jed’s stalking and the fault-lines it exposes in his relationship with Clarissa are masterfully depicted. While the sudden plot twists, particularly near the end of the book were all the more shocking for the detailed exposition by Joe of his increasing alienation with his everyday life. I also found the Afterword disturbing – the ‘enduring love’ of the title wasn’t the love between Joe and Clarissa, or Jean and John Logan – it was poor Jed Parry’s obsession with Joe. This short novel will stay with me for a very long time. The unsettling message that the idealisation of romantic love comes at a very high price if taken too far may not be a new one – you only have to recall Shakespeare’s ‘Dark Lady sonnets. But McEwan’s skilled and thought-provoking treatment left me pondering uneasily about the exact nature of passion.
10/10

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