Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan
Nan Talese • $26.95 • ISBN 9780385536820
On sale November 13, 2012

We've been anticipating Ian McEwan's Sweet Tooth for a few months now, so it was a relief to dive in recently and find a delightful adventure tale told by a protagonist readers will identify with right away: Bibliophile and Cambridge grad Serena, who is recruited for the British secret service.

I've written before about enjoying authors' descriptions of reading, and there's an evocative one early on in Sweet Tooth. Says Serena of her days at Cambridge:

I've said I was fast. The Way We Live Now in four afternoons lying on my bed! I could take in a block of text or a whole paragraph in one visual gulp. It was a matter of letting my eyes and thoughts go soft, like wax, to take the impression of the page. To the irritation of those around me, I'd turn a page every few seconds with an impatient snap of the wrist. My needs were simple. I didn't bother much with themes or felicitous phrases and skipped fine descriptions of weather, landscapes and interiors. I wanted characters I could believe in, and I wanted to be made curious about what was to happen to them. Generally, I preferred people to be falling in and out of love, but I didn't mind so much if they tried their hand at something else. It was vulgar to want it, but I liked someone to say 'Marry me' by the end. Novels without female characters were a lifeless desert. Conrad was beyond my consideration, as were most stories by Kipling and Hemingway. Nor was I impressed by reputations. I read anything I saw lying around. Pulp fiction, great literature and anything in between—I gave them all the same rough treatment.

I'm not sure McEwan entirely approves of Serena's approach to reading here, but I can identify with finding books without female characters rather lifeless. What are you reading this week?

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