Sweet Tooth

Ian McEwan has not written a novel with a female protagonist since Atonement. In Sweet Tooth, he shows once again that he can inhabit the female voice completely.
Serena Frome ("rhymes with plume") wanted to major in English literature, but her mother convinced her to major in math. She acquiesced, got a barely respectable third at Cambridge and continued to read everything. She has a job with the British intelligence service MI5 by virtue of an affair with a married professor, Tony Canning, who recommended her for the position and eventually dumped her--literally and unceremoniously--at a layby. She doesn't learn the reason for that until years later; indeed, there are several things about Tony that Serena doesn't know.

Her duties at MI5 are mundane--file this, type that--until she is called in to see the higher-ups one day. Because she is a "literary type," she is recruited for "Sweet Tooth," a special project that aims to co-opt writers with somewhat leftish tendencies and steer them away from anti-Western bias. Serena will pose as the representative of a cultural foundation with money to give out and will "run" novelist and journalist Thomas Haley in the hope that he will write the sorts of articles MI5 is looking for.

Serena starts by reading Haley's short stories (curiously reminiscent of many of McEwan's), then meets and falls in love with the man. How can she continue to deceive him while really loving him? The resolution is vintage McEwan. --Valerie Ryan, Cannon Beach Book Company, Ore.

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