Ian McEwan sits high up on my long list of favourite contemporary authors. Enduring Love was the second book of his that I had read many years ago. When I was putting together this post I instantly thought of Enduring Love, one of the most disturbing and yet fascinating books on obsessive love, fate, and on how the extremes of a man’s delusions can lead to the destruction of lives.
The novel starts off with probably one of the most memorable beginnings of any book I have read. It begins with a freak accident involving a hot-air balloon in the middle of an English field with two witnesses, Joe Rose and his girlfriend, Clarissa. This event sparks a chain of events that come to haunt and menace Joe Rose, namely in the form of a man, Jed Parry, one of the persons who was involved in the incident on that day. Jed, inexplicably, sees the chance meeting between him and Joe as divinely fated, and proceeds to stalk Joe with the intention of bringing him to God. The stalking becomes more and more intense. As the plot takes you through the perceptions of both victim and pursuer, you start to question the stalker’s true feelings. Is he merely lonely, in love with Joe, insane or just a zealous religious fanatic? McEwan’s concise, yet cinematic writing describes the horrific events and misperceptions that unfold in a way that made it impossible for me to put this book down.
During the summer, I made it a goal of mine to finally get around to reading Anna Karenina. As is my habit, I have my own obsession of buying books and then allowing them to sit in piles unread, sometimes for years. At over 800 pages, Leo Tolstoy’s epic novel may seem like a daunting book to read, but after the long haul, I have to say it was worth it.
A brief description of Anna Karenina may mislead you into thinking that Tolstoy’s classic novel of doomed love as something not very original: a wealthy, beautiful aristocratic woman in an unhappy marriage falls in love with a handsome, young and dashing army officer. I have read many classic and Victorian novels, many of which were great reads, however, Anna Karenina far exceeds all of them. The character of Anna, one of the most famous literary female characters of all time, fascinated me. As the novel progresses, we see Anna Karenina transform from a sympathetic and enchanting woman, to a destructive, tormented and tragic figure as her obsessive love for Count Vronsky takes its toll on her life.
The biggest surprise for me was in the secondary plot following the character of Konstantin Levin, a young man who is obsessed with the big questions of life. Levin throughout the novel is preoccupied with what it means to live a good life. In complete contrast to Anna, Levin is a sympathetic, warm, awkward character with an unrequited love. He goes through a journey of self-actualization that I found more satisfying and deeply affecting than Anna’s story.