A beautifully written novel by Ian McEwan, Enduring Love is a passionate thriller that explores the relationship between love, confusion and paranoia. With a unique and eventful beginning, the story soon develops into something unexpected that’s filled with subtle twists and turns, and a heart-racing conclusion.
Following an evocatively described incident involving a hot air balloon, Joe Rose and his wife Clarissa meet an interesting man named Jed Parry. Seemingly harmless, albeit slightly confrontational, the couple engage in brief comforting conversation with him before going their separate ways. But as Joe lies in bed that night he receives a phone call from Jed – a declaration of love. From then on Joe is pursued, receiving more phone calls, visits to his home, and unexpected meetings with a man who believes that the pair are destined to be together.
This is the first McEwan novel that I’ve read, and one of the best books that I’ve read so far. When it comes to novels I can sometimes feel that they are perhaps pretentious or overly complex, but Enduring Love is the complete opposite. A distinctive writing style means that this book can be read effortlessly, whilst still being intelligent, powerful, and ultimately absorbing. Told primarily from Joe’s perspective, you feel as though you are completely in his world, experiencing his emotions and becoming engrossed in his life.
Despite the writing style not being overly complex, the story itself is incredibly engaging. The emotions and drama are powerful, potent and realistic. ‘Psychological thriller’ is an often ambiguous phrase, but nonetheless one that I would attach to this book. It subtly messes with your mind, and makes you ask questions. Why would Joe agree to meet up with a man who’s stalking him? Why does he not tell Clarissa about what’s going on? Throughout the story, Joe’s frustration at the situation is powerfully portrayed – a man who cannot escape from someone who will stand woefully at his window awaiting a glimpse of the man he believes is in love with him. But whilst I could completely empathise with Joe, there were times when his behaviour is called into question too, and you’re left wondering who to really believe.
There’s a slight undercurrent of religion throughout this book, most notably at the beginning when Jed proclaims to Joe: “God has brought us together in this tragedy”. It adds a further intriguing dimension, intensifying the psychological element of the novel. The believability of Joe and Clarissa’s relationship also enhances the story. Almost idyllic at first, but quickly souring as Jed’s presence begins to create cracks under the surface – you’re willing them to remain strong throughout.
Enduring Love is sharply written, the story never drags on and the action is continually satisfying. It can go from relaxing and quiet to dramatic and shocking in the turn of a page, and you’re often suddenly thrown into a quick-paced, adrenaline-filled scene. An intriguing mix of psychological thriller, love, and madness, ‘Enduring Love’ is a story that is utterly enthralling.