Christmas present ideas from the LDV team and friends – Day 3

Welcome to Day 3 of our  series of Christmas present ideas. Today it’s the turn of Mary Reid.

Sweet-ToothSweet Tooth by Ian McEwan

Ian McEwan has written another masterful novel, set in the murky world of MI5 in the 1970s. The outcome is actually given away in the first paragraph, but the final chapter is still surprising and revelatory. In between, we follow a young and seemingly ill-prepared recruit to the service as she is given the task of subverting a novelist. She had herself been introduced to MI5 by an older lover who then disappeared mysteriously, and the various strands of the story weave in and out of each other. The novel is self-referential in a number of intriguing ways, particularly in the analysis of the fictional novelist’s works. Although written in 2012, and based in a pre-Internet period, this book is packed with details about how MI5 works, framing an emerging human story.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Richard Dean 4th Dec '13 - 12:16am

    Fiction is that, fiction – imagined – made up – a personal view – likely to be a description of the writer’s psyche – not real. Is there any actual evidence for the claims in this article that there was a “murky world of MI5 in the 1970s”? Is there any evidence that this book “is packed with details about how MI5 works” ?

    Is this just the paranoia that the author of the piece of abject propaganda wants us to fall victim to? Apologies if this is rude, apologies in advance, but this article is so bad that the question needs to be asked – to be absolutely clear: is LDV or someone getting paid to promote these Christmas present ideas? Yes or no?

  • Richard Dean 4th Dec '13 - 4:18am

    Well, the night shift is over, but really, is this George Orwell and Mind Control? I hope the next nine gift ideas are a bit more open about what they are supposed to do, and like somewhere in this century, even this decade if poss. Tks.

  • I don’t really understand much of what Richard Dean says, but this is a novel, and a very good one, not a piece of original research. It is, however, based in truth: the fact that the British and American security services supported intellectuals by covert means during the cold war is well-attested. Ian McEwan has, probably from his third novel, been a writer very much engaged with the political and scientific realities of the world: why it should count against him that he is revisiting the period of his early adulthood in the 1970s I have no idea. This may not be his best book – Atonement was superb, and a quantum advance from anything he’d done previously – but it is subtle, intelligent and absorbing.

  • Richard Dean 4th Dec '13 - 9:37pm

    What I’m on about is that, if someone is going to make assertions about the nature of a supposed political reality, they should expect to be challenged. The nature of the intelligence services is hardly a value-free topic, with the Snowden and Guardian actions currently being the subject of a parliamentary enquiry.

    It’s a bit devious to hide political assertions in a Christmas Gift idea, but if you’ve read George Orwell’s 1984 you’ll know that it’s one of the techniques used by Big Brother to direct the way people think. A novel really is a work of imagination, even the scene in which it is set is adjusted to whatever the author’s theme is. So reading a novel is rather an unreliable way of getting a concept of reality. A novelist’s task is to control a reader’s mind, of course. Though those whose minds are already controlled by Big Brother might “not really understand” that.

    I’m sure the novel is great as a novel, but it’s just a product. I think it’s a bit of a pity that LDV has descended to product endorsements, particularly if the intention is to make an underhand political point.

  • I really am a bit taken aback by Richard Dean’ s comments. Of course it is a novel, and I was making no political points at all, simply describing a book that I had enjoyed reading. I have no idea whether the ‘ murky world’ that Ian McEwen describes is an accurate description of what really went on in the 70s, neither can I attest to the veracity of the Smiley novels, but like them this is an imaginative and clever tale and I recommend you read it.

  • tonyhill 4th Dec ’13 – 8:47pm
    I don’t really understand much of what Richard Dean says,

    You are not alone, Tony. I sometimes wonder if Richard Dean understands much of what he says.

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