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Ian McEwan: Black Dogs

Jeremy has lost his parents when young and, when he marries Jenny Tremaine, he adopts her parents as his, forging strong bonds with them. Bernard Tremaine, now a respected political commentator, was a member of the Communist Party in his youth, leaving it after the 1956 invasion of Hungary. The first part of the story mainly concerns the reminiscences of Jeremy’s dying mother-in-law about her relationship with Bernard. The second part concerns the Fall of the Berlin Wall, which Jeremy and Bernard share. This is a turning point not just in the history of the world but also in how Bernard sees the world, for his world up to them had been divided into good guys and bad guys, communists v. capitalists, and this is about to change. Bernard’s philosophy is contrasted with that of his wife, who sees things in a more spiritual light but also sees a dark side, symbolised by the black dogs of the title. And it is the black dogs, the other side of Bernard’s rationalist approach to life, that dominate this book and, clearly, in McEwan’s opinion, dominate the world.

Publishing history

First published 1992 by Jonathan Cape