I had previously read Ian McEwan’s Chesil Beach which I didn’t really enjoy but as he is one of our highly regarded authors, and his books are usually short, I decided to read Black Dogs as part of my 60 Books from 60 Years challenge. The book was short but sadly I didn’t particularly enjoy it.
The story is told by a man looking back at the story of the estrangement between his mother in law and father in law. They had married just after WW2 and travelled to France but an incident on their honeymoon changed the way that each of them saw the world and each other so that they couldn’t live happily together in the future. What happens to the couple is an echo of the devastation inflicted on the country by the recent war to which people also reacted in various ways.
This is a slight story which reflects the different ways in which people perceive and describe the same events and how an encounter with evil can affect individuals and even the next generation. The actual event is hinted at all the way through the book but only described towards the end and at that point I found it a bit underwhelming and I did wonder why it had kicked off this lifetime estrangement between the couple. I was not able to understand the differences in their approach to the event and why that mattered to their relationship.
There is a slight sub-plot about the narrator’s sister which is mentioned, although not in detail, and which I couldn’t make fit with the rest of the story – I wasn’t quite sure why it was included and what it added to the book.
I regret to say that I obviously don’t “get” Ian McEwan based on the two books of his which I have now read. Not every author is for every reader.