A story of two friends who make a euthanasia pact following the death of a woman they have both loved, Ian McEwan’s Amsterdam revolves around the selfish actions of the two men in the aftermath of bereavement.
Both characters Clive, a composer intent on writing his magnum opus symphony, and Vernon, the editor of a flagging newspaper, attempt to stay busy following the death and throw themselves back into their respective professions. This presents both of them with opportunities in which they elect to serve their own interests as opposed to those of others. In both instances their choices backfire, but far from leading to reformation, both outcomes serve only to cement them in their selfish ways. There is once again however, consequences and these are borne out in shocking fashion in the book’s final pages.
Probably the most chilling thing about this story is that both characters are completely believable, and this realisation prompts one to ponder how many untold stories there are in the world of the sort of callousness that both characters embody. One feels that their mentalities are linked intrinsically to their careers and this may have a lot to with their believability, for in a contemporary society that champions individual achievement and wealth over integrity and community, platitudes promoting the notion that single-mindedness is a pre-requisite for success can be easily found. What McEwan does, is highlight in brutal fashion, the bludgeoning consequences of the rise in such attitudes.
Rating: 4/5 Decimates the idea that rampant selfishness can bring prosperity.