“For readers who liked Ian McEwan’s Atonement,” has become shorthand for novels that blend psychological suspense with a strong sense of the atmosphere of a particular time, deft writing and romance.
McEwan himself has to undergo that comparison. Atonement has become a modern classic (Time magazine included in its list of 100 all Time greatest novels), with every book he’s published since compared to it.
In today’s NYT the hard-to-please Michiko Kakutani, asks whether McEwan’s latest, Sweet Tooth (RH/Nan A. Talese), arriving next week, lives up to the “author’s dazzling 2001 masterpiece.” In a word, she says, “No.”
The book was released in the UK in August and British reviewers also made comparisons, with The Independent saying, “though this is his best book since Atonement, Sweet Tooth has none of the disquieting tragedy and dazzling technique of that novel, which remains perhaps the greatest in contemporary British literature.”
On the other hand, The Economist compares it to several other McEwan’s titles; “Sweet Tooth is not Mr McEwan’s finest book. It has neither the darkness of The Comfort of Strangers nor the passion of Enduring Love, nor even the forensic observation that made On Chesil Beach such an uncomfortable and memorable read. It is a clever book—ostensibly about spying, yet really about writers and the alchemy of fiction. But it is also curiously forgettable. What it lacks is not so much an animating spirit, as a heart.”
The Guardian, however, appraises Sweet Tooth on its own merits; “This is a great big beautiful Russian doll of a novel, and its construction – deft, tight, exhilaratingly immaculate – is a huge part of its pleasure.”