Major plot spoiler below
I got this one for Christmas and thoroughly enjoyed it. It takes a twist on a traditional spy novel. it is set in the early 1970s and follows the character arc of Serena Frome who we track from her time as a student at Cambridge through her early career in the secret service. The book focuses on a particular operation to use writers to help alter the cultural thinking of a country. This is widely known and will be of no surprise that this occurred. The intelligence in this book is with the unnerving thought that the plot and writing might all be in the mind of the writer in question and that Serena Frome is someone who does not actually exist within the novel (this despite the fact that she is a fictional creation in any case). What I am trying to say is that she is a fiction within a fiction. There is evidence to support this from within the writings of the “author” at the centre of the story one Tom Haley, who I feel invents Serena and a fantasy for himself to cover the otherwise bland and unfulfilled life as a university lecturer. It is looking at Haley’s character and his works to see that he is a fantasist and a narcissist. This may not hold water but the mere fact that the book is left on such a cliffhanger would fit well with this. I don’t know, maybe it’s less clever than that but I don’t think so. As with all McEwans work its focussing on the characters that will give you the answer you want .