Ian McEwan’s novel, which I actually read for work, was an interesting one. It deals with a popular science writer who is caught up in a calamitous situation when out one day taking a picnic with his wife. He is one of five men who try to save a young boy from a ballooning accident. This event proves to be an epiphanic moment for one of the would be saviours and a cataclysm for another.
Joe is stalked by Jed, a sufferer of deClerambault’s syndrome, an illness whereby the sufferer becomes fixated on another person, believing that they love them and that the love is mutual. McEwan practices an illusion on his audience by including an appendix ostensibly written by two doctors for the British Review of Psychiatry which completely outlines the case that he has written about in his novel. Several reviewers have been taken in by this clever ruse and it adds an interesting twist to the story.
The writing is beautiful, McEwan deals in the minutae of everyday life with precision and the emotions of his characters are carefully controlled. I do think that perhaps Joe is a bit too controlled, considering this man is ruining his life and his wife suspects him of making the whole thing up. Eventually he sets off on a more dangerous course when he decides that the law cannot help him and there has already been an attempt on his life. This creates more dramatic tension, but I still get the feeling that Joe is much too well behaved. He is the epitome of a middle class Englishman, manners are much more important than anything else.
This is an interesting novel, beautifully written. I guess the main problem with my reaction to it is the fact that I did not really empathise with Joe, I found it hard to believe that someone would react so passively, and of course this is the thing, that is what causes Clarissa to disbelieve him in the first place, I suspect that in this case it is more of a problem with the reader than the writer. Although I enjoyed it, I did not fully believe in Joe.