With the same dynamic force and careful, clever craft that led to the overwhelming success of his award-winning 2001 novel Atonement, Ian McEwan presents a thrilling and unexpected spy novel that is much more than it seems.
It is 1972, and the Cold War still lingers. Despite her indefatigable love of literature, Serena Frome—the young, beautiful, and independent-minded daughter of an Anglican bishop—has somehow ended up a math student at Cambridge University. She is failing at her studies and bored with her life, until a brief and tragic affair with a university professor leads to her recruitment by the British secret service. As an employee of MI5, she rises through the ranks and receives her first real assignment: a major role in Sweet Tooth, a covert operation to fund writers who will give voice to the agency’s preferred politics, in order to steer the cultural conversation and control the political-cultural mood. But Serena is unable to keep business and her personal life separate. After a stunted relationship with a superior who reveals his hidden engagement, Serena falls in love with the author she is assigned to shepherd and becomes entangled in a tricky theater of seduction and deception that culminates with a deliciously shocking twist—leaving readers eager to return to the first page and start McEwan’s latest masterpiece all over again.
Smart, funny, suspenseful, and entertaining, Sweet Tooth is also stunningly deep, reflecting a thoughtful examination of truth and identity, politics and propaganda, love, loyalty, and betrayal. Is it possible that sometimes there is no right choice? Is there such a thing as a permissible lie? What does it mean to betray? And to love? McEwan’s riveting new novel will inspire readers to ponder these questions and, also, to consider truth and fiction—not only as they pertain to the written page, but as they shape our reality as we invent ourselves and the world around us.