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Likely Stories: Enduring Love by Ian McEwan

  Tense and absorbing story of a runaway balloon, and several men trying to help.

(Local productions are on hold during the social distance requirements due to Covid-19.  This segment originally aired July 12, 2018.)


Best-selling author, Ian McEwan has a knack for stories that slowly build for the reader right up until the precipice.  According to WikiPedia, McEwan is an English novelist and screenwriter.  In 2008, The London Times featured him on their list of "The 50 greatest British writers since 1945.  Enduring Love is among a few of his early works I have eagerly devoured. 

Joe and Clarissa have what seems to be an ideal marriage.  Clarissa is a therapist, who is dedicated to her profession.  Joe is a successful freelance writer.  Clarissa has been away for some time, and 

when she returns from her latest job, they want to rekindle their relationship with a romantic picnic.  McEwan writes, “The beginning is simple to mark.  We were in sunlight under a turkey oak, partly protected from a strong, gusty wind.  I was kneeling on the grass with a corkscrew in my hand, and Clarissa was passing me the bottle—a 1987 Dauman Gassac.  This was the moment, this was the pin prick on the time map: I was stretching out my hand, and as the cool neck and the black foil touched my palm, we heard a man’s shout.  We turned to look across the field and saw the danger.  Next thing, I was running toward it.  The transformation was absolute: I don’t recall dropping the corkscrew, or getting to my feet, or making a decision, or hearing the caution Clarissa called after me.  What idiocy, to be racing into this story and its labyrinths, sprinting away from out happiness among the fresh spring grasses by the oak.  There was the shout again, and a child’s cry, enfeebled by the wind that roared in the tall trees along the hedgerows.  I ran faster.  And there, suddenly, from different points around the field, four other men were converging on the scene, running like me” (1). 

This opening paragraph displays the real power of McEwan as a writer.  His attention to details, and the split-second reaction, all led Joe to a nightmare of unusual proportions.  In two appendices, McEwan spells out a peculiar affliction known as “de Clerambault’s Syndrome.  Joe becomes a victim, when one of the men, Jed, who attempted to rescue a child in the out-of-control balloon, aims his obsession at Joe.  Unfortunately, no one has seen Jed, he has no police record, and the stress is damaging Joe and Clarissa’s marriage.

I was amused by some of the stories Joe heard from his students, and similar stories from Clarissas’s patients.  McEwan writes, “The student [Clarissa] supervised yesterday, a raw girl from Lancaster, phoned her in tears and shouted incoherently.  When Clarissa calmed her down, the girl accused her of setting her impossible reading tasks and of sending her up blind alleys of research.  The Romantic poetry seminar went badly because two students appointed to give discussion papers had prepared nothing and the rest of the kids had not bothered with the reading” (85). 

Ian McEwan is a masterful story teller with deep and interesting examinations of the mind.  No one believes Joe, and he begins researching the syndrome.  The marriage begins to shred.  The climax of Enduring Love is unforgettable.  5 stars.

Likely Stories is a production of KWBU.  I’m Jim McKeown.  Join me again next time for Likely Stories, and happy reading!

Life-long voracious reader, Jim McKeown, is an English Instructor at McLennan Community College. His "Likely Stories" book review can be heard every Thursday on KWBU-FM! Reviews include fiction, biographies, poetry and non-fiction. Join us for Likely Stories every Thursday featured during Morning Edition and All Things Considered with encore airings Saturday and Sunday during Weekend Edition.