Sweet Tooth is one of those books that felt substantially shorter than it actually was. This probably has to do with the fact that it never truly felt like it picked up whatever thread would have provided a sort of suspense/greater interest to the novel. This is not to say I am one of those people that demands massive amounts of movement in their books. I am perfectly content with sitting in the midst of an author’s contemplations, provided there is a sort of narrative foundation underneath it. Unfortunately, this book lacks a real sense of conflict. When dealing with the high stakes world of espionage this seems a sort of obvious thing needed for peak effectiveness.
Instead, the book is a simple retelling with a few narrative tricks that hedges all of its bets on the success of its narrative identity when the curtain comes down.
I can applaud that. It’s laudable. Gutsy even, but something in the novel’s very nature keeps it from working for me.
This is a book about love, but I never felt the weight of it between the two characters. Maybe that is why the ending bothers me the way it does. The love was there, so I was told, but I couldn’t find it. The words rang like facsimiles of what someone thought this type of love ought to be like.
Maybe it’s because I’m not British. I’m much too American. Much too emotionally expressive to see what may be clear and resonate to those more in tune with this particular frequency.
Regardless, there is something hidden in the way the novel carries itself that keeps me from embracing it. It felt too distant from its characters, too impersonal even in the face of some much being laid bare across the table.
The writing is solid. Had it been anything else I would have loathed it for thinking itself so self-indulgently clever. Its attempts to manipulate the reader are too heavy-handed, too much like the story is incidental to the author’s desire to showcase this wonderfully sneaky thing he contrived in the dark of some long summer evening.
“Arguing with a dead man in a lavatory is a claustrophobic experience.” ― Ian McEwan, Sweet Tooth