by Ian McEwan
Nan A. Talese, 2012. 301 pgs. Fiction
Serena, a young, gorgeous MI-5 employee with a Cambridge maths degree, is recruited for operation ‘sweet tooth’: a secret pro-capitalist propaganda operation. Still just a woman in 1970’s England, Serena’s only part in this mission is ensuring that T. H. Haley, a young writer, accepts the government funding and agrees to write a novel. It turns out that Serena and Haley have an undeniable attraction for each other, and their affair quickly grows complicated under the layers of lying and deceit.
Though this book was widely proclaimed as one of the ‘best reads of 2012’, it really didn’t grow on me until the final few pages. It’s technically a spy novel, but the spying is too guilt-ridden and subtle to make up for the plot’s plodding pace. The ending is one of those respectable, intellectual, surprising ones that changes your whole perspective on the book. While this sort of ending is excellent in its own way, it does mean that most of the enjoyment comes not from the actual reading experience, but instead from reflecting on the book after it is already over. A worthwhile novel for patient readers.