Black Dogs, by Ian McEwan

This is a book about two obstinate old people with a failed marriage – and how dangerous challenges can shape our lives.

I had previously read Ian McEwan’s more recent book, On Chesil Beach, and had not particularly enjoyed it. Since Ian McEwan is one of our most respected British authors, I was determined to have another go.

What I liked about this book:

  • The sympathetic portrayal of the main female character, who we first meet as an old woman. Later we learn of her experiences when young and how these shaped her life. (To start with, I thought the narrator was going to favour the analytical, but cold, husband.)
  • The underlying tension created by the vague menace of the episode of the ‘black dogs’, introduced early into the narrative, but not revealed in full until near the end.
  • The linking of the fall of the Berlin wall into the narrative – as this was such a powerful news story and had such tremendous resonance for those of us who lived through the age of the Wall and saw its fall.
  • The fact that walking plays an important role in the story. (As I am a keen walker and involved in my own epic walk around the coast).

What I didn’t like about this book: The book starts with an interesting preface. I would have liked to know more about the narrator, his family and, particularly, what happened to his neice, Sally. The main story opens at a languid pace and, being told through the eyes of a third person, I felt somewhat distanced from the main characters and the events that slowly enfolded, until the pace picked up and the story came alive in the second half of the book.



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