Sweet tooth – book review

Author: Ian McEwan

Title: Sweet tooth

 Yan’s pick

 Young, innocent, gorgeous and recently graduated fromCambridge, Serena is recruited by MI5. But she finds herself in a low paid job and the income hardly enough even to purchase hardcopy books. She’s determined to stay on and tries to make it through dull tasks every day.

 That’s why she’s grateful and excited when one day she’s interviewed and given a spy task, codenamed ‘Sweet tooth’ by the guys from the top floor. The job is simple. The top bosses want her to see a new writer, TH Haley. MI5 wants to fund writers like Haley to write for their cause. It’s 1972 and the Cold War is on with the propaganda machine in full swing.

 Then young Serena goes to her job, flirts with Haley, and falls for him. The more she takes in Haley writing the less comfortable she becomes in her own role as a spy. When Haley wins a literary award, and a story of Haley which is being funded by MI5 is in the press, what would happen to ‘Sweet tooth’ and to Serena?

At the beginning I thought it was a book about the Cold War and espionage. But the more I read the less I was convinced that the book had anything to with what it seemed. There are stories within stories, and images within images. This is a book about writing, about fiction writing – it has so many twists and hilarious feelings –  love, betrayal, jealousy, and even ridicule. The espionage is the smoke in the air to get readers attention, maybe?

 I like the way the author writes. Fiction for me is all about stories. You have to have some good stories to create vivid images, images of characters who live in books with whatever environment that author makes for them, stories that authors want readers to believe in. Without stories there can be no fiction.

 I love the twisted ending of the book, which is quite extraordinary and even demoralising. Does Serena succeed in her task or does she fail miserably? Well, you better read it yourself.