As a reader, I have a love-hate relationship with Ian McEwan. Atonement is one of my favorite books ever. I also really liked Saturday. But then along came On Chesil Beach which I hated. I read his next book Solar with trepidation but liked it ok. I realized after Solar that I keep reading MacEwan’s book waiting for the next Atonement. That’s probably not fair to him as an author, but I’m not sure I can change. I had almost decided that I should just stop reading him. Then I heard about Sweet Tooth, his newest book and it sounded intriguing enough to give it a try.
I tried to read it with more of an open mind and not compare it to Atonement. MacEwan, however, makes this a bit hard. The main character, Serena, is a voracious reader who absolutely hates books that “cheat”, where something you think is real isn’t. She gets angry with authors who employ those kind of plot twists. Of course, that’s exactly the plot twist that MacEwan used in Atonement. Serena herself is living a life of deception. A math geek whose real love is reading novels, she is recruited by her lover at Oxford to work for MI5 after graduation. Once at MI5 she becomes involved in Operation Sweet Tooth, a plan to fight the Cold War by influencing cultural ideas. Sweet Tooth is one of those books that can be ruined by saying too much so I’ll stop there.
In the end, this was the book I’ve enjoyed the most by MacEwan since Atonement. One of the most interesting thing to me was that both MI5 and the CIA actually had these kind of Cultural Cold War programs. That’s probably not a surprise to many people but it was an area of history I was ignorant of.