I am entering BookRiot’s START HERE Write-In Giveaway…
Inspired by the success of our Reading Pathways series and our observation that every reader has at least one author–and in some cases, many authors–they haven’t read because they don’t know where to start, we’re assembling an awesome group of writers, critics, and bloggers to write short chapters explaining the best 3- or 4-book sequence for getting into an author’s body of work. And we want you to be a part of the process! So, pick an author you’re passionate about and whose work you know well, and write a sample chapter for START HERE on your blog.
So I chose one of my all-time favorite authors, Ian McEwan. I have always been drawn to contemporary English authors, but even though McEwan has been writing for forever, he escaped my attention until 2007. Surprisingly, he was recommended to me by my boss, who had read about McEwan’s latest book (at the time), On Chesil Beach in The Wall Street Journal. I was immediately intrigued, rushed to obtain this little novella, then promptly consumed various other McEwan novels.
- I thought that On Chesil Beach was a great starting point because it was short, it is an excellent example of how McEwan gets into the minds of his characters, and it demonstrates his skill for creating atmosphere.
- To really get a feel for how bizarre McEwan can be and how far he can go with an idea, The Cement Garden or The Comfort of Strangers are essential. Enduring Love is another that falls into this category, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as the former two. TCG takes innocence and turns it on its head and TCS delivers a sinister conclusion. Both are relatively short, too, under 200 pages, but they still pack a punch.
- Amsterdam begins with a pact between two gentlemen upon the death of a mutual friend and ends with a hilarious but tragic outcome. This is one of the better examples of McEwan’s sharp wit and his ability to take the reader to the edge and beyond.
- His most acclaimed novel, Atonement has become a book club darling and for good reason. McEwan does everything right here: the characters and their inner dialogue, detailed atmosphere, and perfect pacing. Atonement has universal themes, it is elegantly written and altogether seductive.
- Once you’ve figured out McEwan’s style from these examples, I highly recommend Solar, specifically for the character of Michael Beard. He is an utterly flawed man which makes him both detestable and endearing. There are some laugh-out-loud anecdotes, and though this is one of his more introspective novels, it is not as heavy as Saturday or The Child in Time.