Sweet Tooth

Today we're in Palm Springs, chilling in the sun, reading.

I've started Ian McEwan's new novel, Sweet Tooth. It's told in the first person by a recent university graduate, Serena Frome. She relates the story of how she was recruited to work for the British domestic intelligence service, MI5, at the end of the Swinging Sixties.

Hold on, ostensibly it's told by Serena Frome looking back from the present day. She tells us so early in the book, and at one point she digresses to reflect on how the naked body of her 54 year old lover/recruiter looks merely middle aged in her mind's eye today, not shocking and alien as to her younger self.

I'm sure McEwan sets up the decade-framing device because it will be necessary for a turn in the story later, but interest really picks up when the narrator drops the long lens and speaks as if within the moment of what's told. I've just finished a scene where Serena has survived a vetting by three generations of MI5 operatives and been given her first assignment to "run" an agent in the field. The telling is the more engaging for plausibly being told contemporaneously.

But I'm only a third of the way into the book.

It's about international politics, too, and how the institutions of western democracy are defended in ways overt, surreptitious, and something in between. So I may report back when finished on what lessons the older narrator - who presumably lives among us - may have for us concerning today's geopolitics.

Sweet Tooth


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