Enduring love : a novel

by Ian McEwan

Paper Book, 1998

Status

Available

Publication

New York : Nan A. Talese, 1998.

Description

Totally compelling and utterly convincing, Enduring love is the story of how an ordinary man can be driven to the brink of murder and madness by another's delusions.

Media reviews

Ian McEwan's reputation as a writer of small, impeccably written fictions is secure. His gift for the cold and scary is well established, too: among the critical praise that festoons his book jackets, the word "macabre" crops up more than once. But his books are more than tales of suspense and shock; they raise issues of guilt and love and fear, essentially of what happens when the civilized and ordered splinters against chaos.

User reviews

LibraryThing member bragan
This novel opens with a bizarre accident in which five men, including our main character, Joe, rush to help a distressed balloonist. The attempt, alas, ends in tragedy. It also serves as the catalyst for a strange, disturbing obsession that one of the other would-be rescuers develops for Joe, which in turn threatens Joe's heretofore happy relationship.

I really do love McEwan's writing. He has an incredibly keen grasp of human psychology, and especially the unreliability of human perception and memory, and at his best he makes most other fiction feel like a gross oversimplification of human complexity. Which, let's face it, it is. I'm also impressed by how scientifically literate his writing is. The main character here is a science writer with a PhD in physics, and McEwan gets him, and his scientific subject matter, absolutely right. This is a guy who thinks in well-chosen scientific metaphors, who often stops to analyze his experiences in terms of anthropology, neurology, or evolutionary psychology. He thinks, in other words, exactly the way I do, and I can't tell you how refreshing it is to see that done in a believable and nuanced way (as opposed to being presented with yet another clueless version of what most people think a smart, science-y guy is supposed to be like). It's particularly unexpected and wonderful in this kind of mainstream literary writing, where I don't often encounter characters I can identify that fully with, in all their good and bad points.

My one complaint about this book, and the reason it didn't rate another extra half-star from me, is that the climax is a little unsatisfying, somehow, a little... anti-climactic. Although the book does at least end on a rather effective note. (A tip for the reader: don't skip the appendices. They are very much part of the story.)

I should also add that I was a little trepidatious about the subject matter, because this kind of story could have very easily come across as unpleasantly homophobic, whether consciously or unconsciously, but thankfully it never does.
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LibraryThing member dczapka
Enduring Love is such an unassuming, unsuspecting work of fiction that it feels easy to dismiss. It is that quality, ironically, that makes it so strong; that makes it a work that ultimately is both riveting and terrifying, a psychological study of intense detail and impact.

The novel opens with a scene made for the big screen: a group of strangers discover an out-of-control hot air balloon and struggle to bring its passengers to safety. When one of the rescuers dies in the attempt, Joe Rose, our hero and narrator, shares a glance with young Jed Parry, another of the rescuers, seeking understanding and compassion. But when Jed mistakes that for a look of love, both Joe and Jed enter into a discomfiting obsession that threatens to spiral out of control.

Where the novel succeeds is in its balance of suspense and uncertainty. Joe quickly ascertains that Jed suffers from erotomania and tries to use the psychological disorder to insulate him from Jed's unusual advances. But McEwan is exceptionally careful throughout, casting only faint glimmers on Jed's behavior and allowing Joe's mind to create the obsession. It forces the reader to question the narrator's veracity, to determine if it's all in Jed's head or if it's really all in Joe's. The balance makes for a page-turning and very exciting read.

Despite McEwan's penchant for set pieces, they work exceptionally well in this novel. Especially as the novel spirals towards its climax, the sets--notably, the scene in which Joe attempts to purchase a gun, and the final climactic confrontation--are used to great effect. Sure, they approach predictable, but that gives the novel a sense of inevitability, not tiredness. Even the appendices that close the work manage to leave the reader with a haunting sense of incompleteness, despite their decidedly clinical tone.

I have always been somewhat uncertain about my feelings about Ian McEwan as a novelist, but Enduring Love is very much a successful work. Rather than try to bog the reader down with details, he takes two fascinating characters and explores the intricacies of their psyches in ways that are familiar but unpredictable. You may see the ending coming from a mile away, but the trip there is about as tense as it gets, and well worth the read.
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LibraryThing member nbsp
5 stars for the opening alone.
LibraryThing member SqueakyChu
Although the subject of stalking is interesting, this book is about an interesting stalker, a single man by the name of Jed Parry. He is affected by de Clerambault's Syndrome, a rare psychiatric obsessive disorder. Parry proclaims his love to Joe Rose, a heterosexual man already involved in a loving relationship with his common-law wife Clarissa. Joe comes into contact with Jed only by chance and never gives any indication of being interested or returning Jed's affection. Joe finds he is totally unable to get rid of Jed, the police unwilling to help, and fears that Clarissa is doubtful that Jed exists.

The way Enduring Love is written makes each ensuing chapter increasingly frightful. Occasionally there are some unnecessary tangents, but overall the pace of the book is quick. I was a little disappointed in the ending. I found it sort of weak and perhaps a bit too clinical as well. Nevertheless, the story is interesting enough to make this read worthwhile.
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LibraryThing member manque
Fabulous. A terrifying tale of love and madness. Swirling with ideas about faith, reason and science, human nature and the nature of love, what it means to have--or not to have--children in one's life. Gripping from page one (with one of the very best openings I've encountered in any novel) and thoroughly intelligent, it manages to avoid clichés and any easy answers while dealing with these subjects. It pulls the reader along with a manic, precise narrative that never falters, and intense, outstanding prose.… (more)
LibraryThing member shootingstarr7
Readers who like fast-paced books would do better to look elsewhere, as this novel is deeply introspective. Though the opening chapter is certainly active, the rest of the novel deals with questions about obsession and how different people deal with tragedy.

Though I felt like the book dragged in some places, I found it to be a satisfying read overall. McEwan brilliantly describes Jed's obsession with Joe following the accident, and I felt that the ultimate confrontation between Joe and Jed answered a lot of questions that lingered throughout the novel.… (more)
LibraryThing member SallyApollon
Amazingly, I LOVED other books by Ian McEwan, but was inexplicably irritated by the main character in this. The plot dragged on for me and I really didn't enjoy reading it. Unbelievable because I think "Atonement" is one of my favourit books of all time.
LibraryThing member presto
Science writer Joe Rose and his wife Clarissa are enjoying a day out in the Chilterns when a hot air balloon is about to crash. Joe becomes involved in attempts to save the balloon, but also unwittingly becomes involved with another would be rescuer, Jed Parry. Believing it is God’s way of reaching him, Jed becomes obsessed with Joe, making phone calls, writing letters, waylaying him in the street; all the time declaring his love for Joe. Jed’s irrational love and obsession reach dangerous levels, threatening the stability of Joe’s marriage, and eventually driving Joe to taking extreme measures. Clarissa however has a different view of events, and questions Joe’s sanity.
A tense and dramatic tale that keeps one guessing throughout; is Joe’s perception of events to be believed, or is all in his mind, or even his own fabrication? The first chapter is especially gripping, and the element of surprise is maintained as the story unfolds.
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LibraryThing member lkernagh
I now understand the love - hate relationship some readers have with McEwan's works. Yes, he is a master at capturing the personalities of obsession, compulsion, mania, etc. As much as I loved [Amsterdam], [Enduring Love] really came across to me as nothing more than a deep dive, self-absorbed navel gazing experience, even if it was a disturbing read. McEwan has a gift for capturing the minutiae of personal life but I kind of question why I require this level of detail to appreciate the subject of obsession and obsessive love. Yes, McEwan's details of Erotomania or de Clérambault's syndrome, is an interesting presentation and it works, but seemed like a bit of a slog to wade through the minor details just to comprehend the story arch and plot development. Just a little on the heavy detail / minutiae side. I am still not totally turned off from any further McEwan reading but I will be reserving the books I still need to read for when I am in the mood for the rather depressive topics McEwan writes about.… (more)
LibraryThing member JCO123
Another very interesting, disturbing and thought provoking book by McEwen.
LibraryThing member jennyo
Not my favorite of McEwan's. This one's about love and obsession and it's honestly flat-out creepy. I loved Atonement and Saturday, but I'm glad this wasn't the first book of his I read. It's competent writing, but didn't feel like more than that to me, and I couldn't connect with any of the main characters at all.
LibraryThing member VivienneR
The only type of love that endures is that which is not reciprocated.

Unlike most novels whose story rises to a culmination, McEwan uses the big event as an opener. And what an unforgettable opener! The account that follows is a disturbing story of obsession: sinister, ominous, but utterly compelling.

Joe is a frustrated scientist, now reduced to writing popular science journal articles. His thought processes, of rationalizing in the scientific way is eluding him, and the occupational hazard of "popularizing" has taken over. Is Joe an unreliable narrator? There is so much that can be read into the story that the reader is never quite sure of the veracity of Joe's version. The scene where he tries to acquire a means of defence may be dark but is pure comedy, that somehow fits with the creepiness factor.

Another excellent, beautifully written tale from McEwan.
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LibraryThing member saliero
One of the best openign chapters in any novel.
LibraryThing member kevinashley
A well-written, accurate and understated novel about the behaviour of an obsessive and its effect on the lives of others. It combines excellent psychological portraiture, of inner thoughts and external action and the dissonances between them, with tense plotting.

In keeping with the insidious nature of its subject, even the plot itself initially unfolds as almost a side-text to what initially appears to be the drama of the novel. Like the novel's protagonist we are taken unawares by something which initially seems odd but inconsequential until it becomes all-enveloping.

The novel closes with appendices which are reminiscent of devices used by Michael Creighton in novels such as "The Andromeda Strain". To say more might reveal plot details best savoured in the reading, but in this case I think they're effective in both lowering and heightening the tension that the book creates in a way that a simple continuation of the narrative might have struggled to do.

Unsettling but essential reading. Possibly not if you've been the victim of something like this in the recent past; it may then feel too close to home.
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LibraryThing member Griff
An interesting study of the psyche of stalker, Jed Parry, and stalked, Joe Rose. Certainly the stalker exhibits significant pathology, but along the way McEwan creates doubt - and one begins to wonder if Jed's obsession is real or imagined by Joe. The opening scene, which describes how Jed and Joe met, is extremely well written - filled with tension and vivid images of an unfolding tragedy. A quick and satisfying read that conveys incredible empathy for the characters enmeshed in this love triangle.… (more)
LibraryThing member lberriman
A stressful ride that tugs at the emotions.
LibraryThing member herschelian
The most gripping opening sequence of any book I've read.
LibraryThing member gbill
The book had a great start and was very well written, but I didn't like how the story played out. At times I thought the actions of the characters were not believable, and at other times I thought it was too predictable. Maybe I was just hoping for something different, or something in the later chapters that matched the first few, which were intriguing.

McEwan is a great writer; my favorite passages:

"The initial conditions, the force and the direction of the force, define all the consequent pathways, all the angles of collision and return, and the glow of the overhead light bathes the field, the baize and all its moving bodies, in reassuring clarity. I think that while we were still converging, before we made contact, we were in a state of mathematical grace".

"...she had written me some beauties, passionately abstract in their exploration of the ways our love was different from and superior to any that had ever existed. Perhaps the essence of a lover letter, to celebrate the unique".

"The closing down of countless interrelated neural and biochemical exchanges combined to suggest to a naked eye the illusion of the extinguished spark, or the simple departure of a single necessary element. However scientifically informed we count ourselves to be, fear and awe still surprise us in the presence of the dead. Perhaps it's life we're really wondering at".

"Too much was made in pop psychology, and too much expected, of talking things through. Conflicts, like living organisms, had a natural lifespan. The trick was to know when to let them die. At the wrong moment, words could act like so many fibrillating jolts. The creature could revive in pathogenic form, feverishly regenerated by an interesting new formulation or by this or that morbidly 'fresh look' at things".

And lastly (not for the prudish):
"The she put her lips to my ear and it was like the old days. 'You're a bad boy to spend so much money. I'm going to make you f*** me all afternoon".
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LibraryThing member MiserableLibrarian
Joe Rose and Clarissa were enjoying a picnic lunch when Joe spied a man struggling with a hot-air balloon carrying a ten-year old boy. The story takes its first twist when another man helping with the balloon becomes obsessed with Joe, and Joe finds it impossible to convice either Clarissa or the police of the danger he’s in. A suspenseful story of obsession, trust, and mental illness.… (more)
LibraryThing member jayne_charles
All the Ian McEwans I've read to date have been intelligent, instructive and entertaining, but with a bit of a slump at the end. This was no exception. The first bit was brilliant - a highly original set-up which demonstrates how it's possible to be unwittingly responsible for someone's death despite the best intentions. It's a fascinating moral conundrum, but in order to show how this troubles the highly rational and scientific main character we then have to go into a series of intellectual musings about life sciences, dead poets and the Hubble Telescope. McEwan does his research very thoroughly and it certainly shows. It can be a bit stifling at times.

It was the sections in the police station and in the house full of hippies where the writing was best, almost playful. One would almost think the author had an axe to grind when it comes to the police. The point about having to fit one's complaint into a 'bureaucratic mould' was well made.

My only big gripe was the ending. Interesting poissibilities are hinted at along the way but the end was disappointingly straightforward
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LibraryThing member amystromboli
Being my 1st Ian McEewan read, I was impressed by his style of writing & the imagery he revealed around corners of his phrases. It was an intense story where a couples' love is tested severely by an estranged man who encountered the 1st @ a hot air balloon accident.
LibraryThing member piemouth
An intensely suspenseful and moving novel about love and trust. Joe and his wife Clarissa are having a picnic when a hot air balloon passes, with a man hanging from a rope on its side. Joe and other bystanders rush to help get the craft under control, but not before one of the rescuers falls to his death. Then, that night, Joe gets a phone call from another man who was there who tells him that he understands how Joe feels, that he knows Joe is in love with him. Soon he's stalking Joe and sending passionate letters.

From that odd but interesting premise comes a intriguing story about how this bizarre and obsessive love threatens Joe's safety and his happy marriage. Although the set up is weird, the emotional changes are totally believable. Having read Atonement but managed to miss the point, I read this with suspicion that the narrator was himself the crazy one, or that he was just misleading us for reasons that would be revealed later.

McEwan pulls it off. Just as a madman can instantly fall in love with a stranger, a love that seemed strong and permanent can erode. The misunderstandings and tensions between Joe and Clarissa are perfectly described, as are the emotions of other characters. Wow.
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LibraryThing member suesbooks
Ian McEwan's writing regarding a man victimized by someone suffering from deClerambault's syndrome was engrossing. However, I found both the response from the police and the wife (if this marriage had been truly the close one described) not believable.
LibraryThing member ammyv
Wonderful. Has everything in it - suspension, love story
LibraryThing member jvandehy
I am glad that I have read other works by Ian McEwan before "Enduring Love" - my confidence/trust in the author got me through an early part of the book where I my only thought was "what?" (or WTF?). This novel turned out to be masterful - An unforgettable opening scene - an event etched into my memory as if I was there to witness it; a unique relationship between protagonist vs antagonist; scenes of grief and wounding; a crazy vindication of fact that shines a bright light on how to act in a trusting relationship (how to be absolutely right and mostly wrong at the same time). Really good book, but the reader has to be patient!… (more)

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