Most know that intricacy and simplicity are two different things. Upon examining the definitions of those two words, they almost seem to be polar opposites.
However, in my experience reading the written works of one Ian McEwan, I now know otherwise. In all the novels I’ve read of his, he combines the two notions seamlessly.
Granted, I’ve only read three of his books.
But goddamn if I didn’t love each one.
McEwan is a skilled writer, with a firm grasp on how to use the English language to convey so much emotion without inundating a reader with too much diction. If you’re looking for a hard-hitting, emotional read without wishy-washy plots, McEwan is your man.
As with many of my favorite books and authors, I first got introduced to McEwan through my middle school library. While browsing the shelves, I saw a book titled Atonement. The cover had a lonely girl sitting on some steps looking off to the side. It wasn’t the cover alone that caught my eye. It was the hefty word “atonement” in conjunction with that young girl about my age that made me pick the book up.
Next thing you know, I’m crying during second period as I flip through the final pages of McEwan’s novel.
I absorbed Atonement like you wouldn’t believe. Book lovers aren’t necessarily born; they’re grown. And that story was the best fertilizer I ever could have used. Even though it was not a book I had been assigned to in class, I dissected it. I pored over every page looking for themes that spanned from beginning to end.
It’s honestly because of Atonement that I got a 5 on my AP English Literature exam. The final essay question had us write an analysis of a novel, and it could be any novel from a number of assorted literature the prompt listed. Atonement was one of the books on that list. Have you ever written an essay for school and actually cared about what you wrote? Yeah, that was probably the first and last time that happened for me.
Just so I’m being upfront with you guys, I’d like to reiterate that I’ve only read three of McEwan’s books.
The first, as I stated just now, was Atonement. The story is all about a girl who tells a single lie in her youth that drastically affects the lives of the people around her. There is a fantastic film adaptation for it, starring James McAvoy and Keira Knightley. Just be prepared for tears.
The second is Nutshell. This one has a strange premise. It’s told from the perspective of an unborn fetus as it overhears that its mother is conspiring to murder her husband with her lover. I just read the little snippet about Nutshell within its book cover, and I was hooked. I mean, aren’t you with that premise alone?!
The third one is The Children Act. I just finished it a few days ago. It is about a judge who hears a case regarding a young boy who refuses life-saving treatment because of his religion, and her decision affects both of their lives in ways neither imagined possible. After reading this book, it was confirmed to me that Ian McEwan should properly be called one of my favorite authors.
Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is fucking destiny.
The simplicity that McEwan captures comes from moments. From what I’ve seen, his stories capture brief snippets in time. While the entire narrative might span years or weeks, the story is pieced together over what occurs in small moments. The situations he writes about are never overly extravagant. There is no drama for the sake of drama. A lot of the complications he talks about feel so relatable they don’t have to be explained.
That’s where the intricacy comes in. The details of a person’s feelings are utterly delved into, leaving little to be left unsaid. The ups and downs of what you might think is an average moment are examined through similes and metaphors. He captures the nuances of everyday occurrences.
I don’t want to shove Ian McEwan donw your throats, but…
…well, actually, I do. He’s that good. He’s a superb writer. I feel like I’m running out of words to describe how awesome he is.
Bottom line, his premises are gripping, his writing style is engrossing, and I’m flipping out over how excited I am to pick up something else he’s written.
2 thoughts on “Ian McEwan Is a Writing Genius”
Sorry I keep responding to all of your posts this way, but… yes! Lol, I am a huge Ian McEwan fan. I haven’t read The Children Act or Nutshell, but wholeheartedly recommend Atonement, Enduring Love (this one especially), The Comfort of Strangers, The Cement Garden (this one especially especially), Sweet Tooth, On Chesil Beach (this one especially, especially, especially!), Saturday, and First Love, Last Rites. I think Solar is the next on my shelf but his latest book, Machines Like Me, sounds really interesting!
He and Murakami are my favourite writers. I’m so pleased students are being assigned Atonement in school. I would have loved to have studied and discussed it!
FYI, if you go on to read more of his stuff, Enduring Love/Atonement marked a big shift in style and subject matter for him. His early work (Cement Garden, The Comfort of Strangers, First Love, Last Rites) is a lot darker and is written with less literary flourishes. Still brilliant, but kind of messed up subject matter wise. People used to call him Ian Macabre, haha.
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DUDE. You just made my week with this response. Heckin’ yes, I’ll take you up on these recommendations. I’m so frickin’ happy that you’ve read him!
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