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Black Dogs: A Novel
     

Black Dogs: A Novel

4.3 3
by Ian McEwan
 

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Set in late 1980s Europe at the time of the fall of the Berlin Wall, Black Dogs is the intimate story of the crumbling of a marriage, as witnessed by an outsider. Jeremy is the son-in-law of Bernard and June Tremaine, whose union and estrangement began almost simultaneously. Seeking to comprehend how their deep love could be defeated by ideological

Overview

Set in late 1980s Europe at the time of the fall of the Berlin Wall, Black Dogs is the intimate story of the crumbling of a marriage, as witnessed by an outsider. Jeremy is the son-in-law of Bernard and June Tremaine, whose union and estrangement began almost simultaneously. Seeking to comprehend how their deep love could be defeated by ideological differences Bernard and June cannot reconcile, Jeremy undertakes writing June's memoirs, only to be led back again and again to one terrifying encouner forty years earlier—a moment that, for June, was as devastating and irreversible in its consequences as the changes sweeping Europe in Jeremy's own time. In a finely crafted, compelling examination of evil and grace, Ian McEwan weaves the sinister reality of civiliation's darkest moods—its black dogs—with the tensions that both create love and destroy it.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In this slim, provocative novel, McEwan (The Innocent) examines the conflict between intellect and feeling, as dramatized in one couple's troubled relationship. The narrator is fascinated by his wife's estranged parents, The lives of June and Bernard Tremaine, whose lives epitomize the tug-of-war between political engagement and a private search for ultimate meaning: their ideological and spiritual differences force them apart but never diminish their mutual love. The catalytic event in the Tremaines' lives occurs on their honeymoon in France in 1946. With the characteristic idealism of their generation, both had joined the Communist Party, but June is already becoming disenchanted with its claims. In an encounter with two huge, ferocious dogs--incarnations of the savagely irrational eruptions that recur throughout history--she has an insight that illumines for her the possibility of redemption. Liberally foreshadowed, --the bloodthirsty beasts are used as an overarching metaphor for the presence of evil in the world-- the actual episode with the dogs is not depicted until the book's final section, where its impact requires the reader to take a leap of faith similar to June's. For some this pivotal scene may not be fully convincing. Indeed, McEwan is rather too didactic in the exposition of his theme, so one may expect too much from the novel's dramatic main event. Yet the work is impressive; McEwan's meticulous prose, his shaping of his material to create suspense, and his adept use of specific settings--Poland's Majdanek concentration camp, Berlin during the dismantling of the Wall, a primitive area of the French countryside--produce a haunting fable about the fragility of civilization, always threatened by the cruelty latent in humankind. (Nov.)
Library Journal
Having lost his parents in an auto accident when he was eight years old, the narrator of McEwan's splendid new novel is fascinated with other people's parents--particularly his remarkable in-laws, indissolubly linked yet estranged and combative almost since their wedding. A man of reason who was once a Communist, Bernard Tremaine cannot understand why his wife, June, rejected political activism for spiritual quest after ``an encounter with evil'' in the form of two fierce black dogs. McEwan does not so much tell their story as the story of the son-in-law's efforts to understand them better by writing about them. Though Bernard and June represent diametrically opposed ways of looking at the world--two views beautifully and succinctly captured by McEwan--they are not mere vessels of thought but lively, distinctive characters in their own right. As the narrator returns to the French countryside where June fatefully encountered the dogs, the deceptively simple buildup makes her brush with violence all the more shocking. A novel of ideas with the hard edge of a thriller; highly recommended. --Barbara Hoffert
Donna Seaman
The narrator of this taut, questioning tale is an orphan relentlessly drawn to other people's parents. This habit of attraction and need takes full form when Jeremy becomes intrigued with his in-laws. June is spiritual, reclusive, and fatally ill; Bernard is active, pragmatic, and political. They fell in love during the grieving yet determined days following World War II, united by an ardent and idealistic faith in communism and a bold sexual passion. But their bliss was short-lived. The source of the philosophical chasm that quickly opened between them, June's epiphanic confrontation with two black dogs in rural France, is alluded to often but not fully explained until the last chapter. Instead, Jeremy and June talk around it during his awkward visits, then he and Bernard rush to Berlin to see the Wall brought down and are sucked into the event's emotionally explosive atmosphere. McEwan deftly juxtaposes the personal against the political and the specific against the general, probing the essence of life's timeless moral dilemmas and dramatizing how differently people, even two people in love, comprehend the world. A penetrating, suspenseful, and resonant work. McEwan's last novel was The Innocent.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780307760234
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
02/02/2011
Sold by:
Random House
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
176
Sales rank:
166,214
File size:
2 MB

Meet the Author

Ian McEwan is the bestselling author of fifteen previous books, including the novels Sweet ToothSolar, winner of the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize; On Chesil BeachSaturdayAtonement, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award and the W. H. Smith Literary Award; The Comfort of Strangers and Black Dogs, both short-listed for the Booker Prize; Amsterdam, winner of the Booker Prize; and The Child in Time, winner of the Whitbread Award; as well as the story collections First Love, Last Rites, winner of the Somerset Maugham Award, and In Between the Sheets.

Brief Biography

Hometown:
Oxford, England
Date of Birth:
June 21, 1948
Place of Birth:
Aldershot, England
Education:
B.A., University of Sussex, 1970; M.A., University of East Anglia, 1971
Website:
http://www.ianmcewan.com

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Black Dogs 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous 12 days ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Is this book qood ?