The wonderfully divisive Ian McEwan was back in the literary press this week with the release in paperback of The Children Act. He is one of the most popular serious novelists writing today and a new title is certain to receive the lead review and be followed by a flurry of interviews and profiles. But there are quite a lot who disagree – vehemently – and they are mostly female. This is perhaps because of the perceived deficiencies of his women characters and partly because of his preference for big set pieces at the expense of character development – a trait he shares with some of the other big beasts. Perhaps however it is perhaps because some of his leading men are flawed and morally unattractive and some readers identify this (falsely) as McEwen himself.
For my money The Children Act is one of the best things he has written and the central voice (female) is as brilliant (and morally ambiguous) as ever.
Also new in paperback and worthy of mention is Look Who’s Back by Timur Vermes. It is a thought-provoking satirical allegory of the return of Adolf Hitler who wakes up in modern Germany and makes a new career as a media celebrity. Uncomfortable and at times very funny.
All That is Solid Melts into Air by Darragh McKeon is a big Russian first novel written by an Irishman who we are going to be hearing a lot more of. Set around the events of the Chernobyl disaster of 1986 it is moving and beautiful.