Author: Ian McEwan
Genres: British Literature, Contemporary Fiction
Setting: United Kingdom
James Tait Black Memorial Prize Nominee for Fiction (1997)
I have never experienced reading a book that immediately filled me with a sense of foreboding. The beginning chapter of Ian McEwan’s Enduring Love was arresting and thrilling. It starts off pretty innocently: two lovers having a picnic in an idyllic setting. Then the story makes a complete 180-degree turn. What started off as a beautiful and calm day ends up in tragedy. A hot air balloon appears in the sky, obviously in trouble as the wind’s implacable strength raises the balloon up and tosses it around. A man is being dragged with it and a boy is inside the basket. Several men, including Joe Rose, try to hold the balloon down but to no avail. You know something bad will happen and it did. A man dies in his efforts to save someone. This prelude to the novel becomes an uncompromising element for the grim things to come. One of the men who tried to help was Jed Parry. That chance encounter between the Joe and Jed gives birth to a delusional attachment and obsession that will prove destructive not only to Joe but also in his relationship with his wife, Clarissa. Life can change in an instant indeed.
Jed Parry suffers from de Clerambault’s syndrome or erotomania. Someone who suffers from erotomania fervently believes that someone is in love with him/her.
Erotomania is a type of delusion in which the affected person believes that another person, usually a stranger, high-status or famous person, is in love with him or her. The illness often occurs during psychosis, especially in patients with schizophrenia, delusional disorder or bipolar mania. During an erotomanic episode, the patient believes that a secret admirer is declaring his or her affection to the patient, often by special glances, signals, telepathy, or messages through the media. Usually the patient then returns the perceived affection by means of letters, phone calls, gifts, and visits to the unwitting recipient. Even though these advances are unexpected and often unwanted, any denial of affection by the object of this delusional love is dismissed by the patient as a ploy to conceal the forbidden love from the rest of the world. (Source)
His delusions are coupled with personal religious beliefs that are overly zealous. In a series of letters, Jed tells Joe how inevitable their meeting was and how they were meant to be with each other. Aside from Jed’s affections and delusional beliefs about Joe’s motives, Jed also tries to convince Joe to turn to God. Jed becomes a rather frightening entity in the story not because he was violent but because his presence becomes constantly disturbing. He starts to stalk Joe, calls him regularly and writes him letters. He doesn’t yield even if Joe dismisses him. We later find out what stalking and obsession can do to people – how it destroys their lives and even their relations with their loved ones. Joe Rose who has rationalized his way into his many written science articles suddenly feels trapped and confused. He is scared for his life as well as Clarissa’s. The book calls your attention to the dark and haunted mind of a disturbed man. Jed looks rather pitiful and harmless but when you read his letters to Joe, you feel uneasy. You can’t help but expect Jed to turn violent as Joe tries to ignore and avoid him. You keep asking questions. You keep anticipating that worse things will happen. And that’s the genius behind this book – you never know where the story is headed.
That the plot should be drawn out so well and the complexities of the characters be portrayed with beautiful writing is a tribute to the author, Ian McEwan. There are some scientific discussions within the book but it never felt boring or monotonous. He has the uncanny way of making the complex understandable and he wrote these things beautifully. They were quite interesting actually but a little disorienting. Not to blame the author, but perhaps my own mind was at fault. There were some things I absorbed immediately but there were some that I had to re-read in order to grasp what was being said. Surely the author can’t be faulted as many of his works have been praised countless times.
Enduring Love spews ambiguities and contradictions, and gives you an impression of a reality that is undoubtedly twisted, yet Ian McEwan has the ability to use words to portray a tale of haunting qualities that intermingles with the complexities of the characters’ circumstances and the normality of their lives. It is a gripping and utterly riveting book that will make you want to keep turning pages and will keep you guessing until the end.
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