The story begins on a windy spring day in the Chilterns when the the calm, organized life of Joe Rose is shattered by a ballooning accident. The afternoon, Rose reflects, could have ended in mere tragedy, but for his brief meeting with Jed Parry. Unknown to Rose, something passes between them – something that gives birth in Parry to an obsession so powerful that it will test to the limits Rose’s beloved scientific rationalism, threaten the love of his wife Clarissa and drive him to take desperate measures to stay alive.
Totally compelling, utterly and terrifyingly 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. It is one of the finest novels Ian McEwan has written in his remarkable career.
As I said in a previous review, reading ‘On Chesil Beach’ at Easter inspired me to try some more of Ian McEwan’s work. There was a very poor selection in my local library, this being one of only two that they had on the shelf. Sadly, it wasn’t for me.
Enduring Love begins with a strange ballooning accident in the Chiltern Hills. A large balloon carrying a man and his grandson loses control and Joe Rose rushes to help along with a few other men. However, they are unable to ground the balloon and it begins to drift back up, with the young boy still in the basket. One by one the men let go, apart from one. He clings on until his arms give way and he falls to his death in the next field.
That night Joe and Clarissa spend hours discussing what has happened, with Joe trying to get over his guilt – if he hadn’t let go, maybe the man would have survived. When they get into bed that night the phone rings. Joe answers it and the caller introduces himself as another of the men who was at the scene, Jed Parry. He declares his love for Joe at which point Joe hangs up.
Over the next few weeks Parry develops a deep obsession with Joe, waiting outside his house and following him around. Joe becomes paranoid and intent on getting rid of Parry, and without realising it, forms his own form of obsession. This becomes too much for Clarissa to deal with and their marriage begins to disintegrate.
The whole affair ends with an explosive discussion between the three of them which changes all of their lives forever.
I found that ‘Enduring Love’ dragged a lot. It was an interesting premise, but I feel it could have been condensed down to about a quarter of the pages. The majority of the story was narrated by Joe and he tended to go off at a tangent, resulting in a lot of necessary paragraphs. I guess you might say this added to his character, but for me it just got in the way of the story and made the book a chore to read.
Although I didn’t enjoy this one it hasn’t put me off reading Ian McEwan in the future and as soon as there are more in stock at the library I will be borrowing them!
It marked the beginning and, of course, an end. At that moment a chapter, no, a whole stage of my closed. Had I known, and had there been a spare second or two, I might have allowed myself a little nostalgia.