Saturday, August 25, 2012

Enduring Love by Ian McEwan

On a windy day, the pilot of a helium balloon fails to anchor it properly, causing the balloon to go afloat with a child still in it. Several men at the scene help out by holding onto the ropes of the balloon and weighing it down, but the pilot— who has been trying to get the child out— accidentally falls out of the basket when a strong wind comes, and this causes the balloon to rise up in the air. One of the man lets go of the rope, then three others follow suit, leaving only one man who hangs on with the balloon high up in the air. His grip eventually weakens, and he falls to his death.

After this accident, the narrator— who has been helping out— makes eye contact with Jed Parry, who has also been trying to help. At this moment, Jed Parry believes that the narrator is in love with him, and thus begin their unpleasant entanglement...

I actually heard of this book from my father, who described the accident at the beginning to me and commented that the situation was "extremely unnatural"; he thought it was a very weird situation for the characters to face.

Anyway, I immediately got interested in this book, and got a copy of it from the library. For me, I was struck by the difficulty of the decisions that the characters had to make: how they had to weigh others' lives against their own. If I were in their position, I would probably be one of the first ones to let go and then feel guilty for the rest of my life...

As for the rest of the story, I thought it was very interesting, too. I was intrigued by the whole idea of erotimania, as well as the relationship between Joe and Clarissa. For me, it was very interesting to see how Jed's presence damaged and threatened the couple's relationship, how it created doubts and misunderstandings.

I also lamented the flaws of the legal system— how one can't be convicted or even assessed unless one has made threats or done actual harm. If only the police had listened to Joe earlier and found  a psychiatrist to assess him, things wouldn't have gone too badly.

In addition, halfway through the novel, I read some notes written by a previous reader, questioning Joe's reliability and trustworthiness. So for some time I was wondering if it's possible that Joe has simply been hallucinating stuff; this was especially true when he couldn't remember the details of the shooting scene. And if that actually was the case, things would have made sense too: Clarissa never saw Jed loitering outside of the apartment, and the writing of Jed was "similar" to that of Joe's.  I also thought it was weird that Joe had suddenly wanted to go back to becoming a scientist; to me it suggested that he might have been a bit manic.

Additionally, this novel reminded me of the importance of communication. Part of the reason for the failure of Joe's and Clarissa's relationship is their lack of communication; Joe decides to do everything on his own, and Clarissa doesn't ask him a lot about the whole affair. Also, as Clarissa suggestes, everything might have been resolved early on if the three of them had sat down and have a serious talk.

As for the ending, I was a little disappointed. I am not sure, but I just thought there could have been more to it. For example, how exactly did the couple reconcile?

Overall, I thought this was a very good novel. It was very intriguing and suspenseful, and I really enjoyed reading McEwan's prose. The book also raised many interesting topics and ideas, such as the evolution of religion and how scientific methods have advanced over the years. However, like I mentioned before, for some reason I wasn't satisfied with the ending...