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Enduring Love


Enduring Love Cover



Reading Group Guide

1. Which is the enduring love the title refers to?

2. Look carefully at the first chapter and talk about the way in which it holds the promise of the whole novel.

3. The narrator says, "I'm lingering in the prior moment because it was a time when other outcomes were still possible" (page 2). Discuss this as a theme throughout the novel.

4. How does science infuse this story? Discuss the different theories described and explained and their importance to this novel.

5. The author writes of "...morality's ancient, irresolvable dilemma: us, or me" (page 15) in relation to the balloon accident. Does this apply to other situations in the novel as well?

6. Joe describes how Clarissa views the trend in science toward neo-Darwinism, evolutionary psychology, and genetics as "rationalism gone berserk," and adds that she thought "everything was being stripped down...and in the process some larger meaning was lost" (page 75). Discuss this as a theme in the novel.

7. Did you think at the beginning that Joe and Clarissa's relationship would reach the crisis point it did? Did you think that Joe and Clarissa's love would endure? At different points, what made you think so?

8. In chapter nine, the author switches from first-person to third-person point of view, where the reader is in Clarissa's head as imagined by Joe. Talk about this unusual choice. What does it add to your understanding of Joe? Of Clarissa?

9. Did you doubt Joe, as Clarissa and others did? Did the author want you to?

10. In responding to Jean Logan's theory of her husband's tryst, Joe says, "But you can't know this...it's so particular, so elaborate. It's just a hypothesis. You can't let yourself believe in it" (page 132). Discuss the irony of Joe's remembering, moments later, what he's read about de Clerambault's syndrome.

11. At the moment before Clarissa first tells him it's over between them, Joe thinks about love, about how it "generates its own reserves." About how "conflicts, like living organisms, had a natural lifespan" (page 155). Later he notes that "...sustained stress is corrosive of feeling. It's the great deadener" (page 231). In light of what happens in this novel, in what ways is Joe right or wrong about this?

12. In Enduring Love, characters at a police station have faulty memories of events. Talk about the role of unreliable perceptions in this novel.

13. "It's like in banks. You never say money. Or in funeral parlors, no one says dead" (page 205). Though this is not a comic novel, the author uses observational humor throughout. Talk about other examples of humor in the novel.

14. The novel ends with the children and the river. What is the author saying with this choice?

15. In the appendixes, we're reminded (with Jed's letter) that "it is not always easy to accept that one of our most valued experiences may merge into psychopathology" (page 259). Is this true in your experience?

16. Why did the author choose to let us know that Joe and Clarissa reconciled (and adopted a child) with a line in a case study in the appendix?

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cupcake200, May 1, 2009 (view all comments by cupcake200)
Ian McEwan’s novel Enduring Love showcases many real aspects to life. The relatability of McEwan’s novel makes it a good read. Why I liked the novel was because of many factors within the read. The book tells of a man, Joe, who becomes sucked into a destructive path after he witnesses a bizarre hot air balloon accident. This book would please anybody who has ever had any type of a relationship; all ages, all backgrounds. After reading Enduring Love, you will want more of McEwan's style and stories. This story tells of an ordinary love fighting to endure.
When beginning the read, one does not need to know a lot of background information to enjoy the story. The book takes place in England and has a British tone to it. The "love" that Parry ends up having for Joe might seem crazy and unbelievable to the reader. However, if one reads with an open mind, the reader can see that his odd love can relate to different aspects of life. The fact that the reader does not know anything about the plot going into it is one aspect that makes the book interesting. The lack of background information emphasizes the plot structure of the novel.
The main points of the novel are fairly simplistic. The plot of the story is simple, yet the ideas behind it are complex. The book begins with a tragic hot air balloon accident witnessed by five strangers. This event affects all of the characters, however the plot focuses on three: Joe, Clarissa, and Parry. Joe describes the incident- “I’ve never seen such a terrible thing as that falling man” (17). Even though the balloon accident seems to be the climactic part, what is more significant is the instant connection Parry has with Joe. Joe states, "…to deliver me from the radiating power of Jed Parry’s love and pity” (29). Joe's marriage to his wife Clarissa is also shaken by the event. They try to cover it up with physical love- “The darkness beyond the gloom of the bedroom was infinite and cold as death. We were a pinprick of warmth in the vastness. The events of the afternoon filled us, but we banished them from conversation.” (37). As Parry begins to stalk Joe more and more, Joe and Clarissa begin to worry and their love seems to fault. Joe tries to forget it by unplugging his phone, saying “By our bedside in the dark, the phone remained silent. I’d unplugged it many hours before” (56). The plot continues to develop with the "love" between Joe and Parry strengthening, and Joe and Clarissa's marriage falling apart. By the end of the novel, Clarissa states "A stranger invaded our lives, and the first thing that happened was that you became a stranger to me" (235). The plot developments are one part that make the novel a good read.
Overall, the book achieves it's goal of telling a story of love, fate, destruction and fear. The abundance of themes in the novel makes the book a perfect read for just about anybody. The book does not tell about unrealistic situations that the reader could never place themselves in. The story is real and believable. The more one reads of the novel, the more one becomes drawn in. At the beginning the reader wonders what McEwan will do with the remaining 200 pages of the novel after the balloon accident. Just when one does not expect another event to occur, it does. Even if the reader cannot relate with the type of love Joe and Clarissa have, one can take their love and relate it back to a different type of relationship in their life. The novel is written as if Joe is actually telling you the story. McEwan also adds in personal letters that allow the reader to get other characters emotions and point-of-view. The emotions of the characters are defined and understandable in the novel. McEwan's writing is very descriptive and allows for the reader to get a better understanding of the story and the characters. Overall, McEwan’s writing makes the novel memorable.
Ian McEwan’s novel Enduring Love is a worth while read. It strings together many real-life themes and ideas into one story. McEwan’s use of characters, plot, style and relatability all contribute to an overall unforgettable novel.
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lechatnoir, May 4, 2008 (view all comments by lechatnoir)
What a page-turner! I first discovered McEwan when I saw the film Atonement, then read the novel on which it was based, and decided I wanted to read more by him. I was not disappointed. A great way to start the summer reading season!
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Product Details

McEwan, Ian
Anchor Books
New York :
Gay men
Obsessive-compulsive disorder
Chiltern Hills
Domestic fiction
Literature-A to Z
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Series Volume:
Publication Date:
December 29, 1998
Grade Level:
8.02x5.26x.76 in. .49 lbs.

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Featured Titles » Literature
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Enduring Love Used Trade Paper
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$15.95 In Stock
Product details 272 pages Anchor Books/Doubleday - English 9780385494144 Reviews:
"Review" by , "A remarkable novel, haunting and original and written in prose that anyone who writes can only envy."
"Review" by , "Impeccably written — [McEwan] is the quietest and most lucid of stylists, with never a word wasted or fumbled."
"Review" by , "A timeless tale about the way fate and faith shape our relationships — part existential fable about the human desire to control fate, [Enduring Love] is also, most affectingly, a story about the strength and fragility of married love."
"Review" by , "Eerie, slow-paced suspense worth its weight in caffeine for keeping you up all night."
"Review" by , "[A] beautifully realized novel about our responses to violence. It asks us to choose between competing visions of events, and, in the process, forces us to examine the way we react to both art and life when something terrible happens."
"Review" by , "McEwan's writing is unflaggingly poised and, as usual, capable of excavating deep, painful trenches in the back corridors of the psyche and the heart."
"Review" by , "Cleverly imagined, beautifully executed — Mr. McEwan has few peers."
"Review" by , "In lesser hands, the story might be overwrought and unbelievable, but McEwan's terse, lucid prose and sure grasp of character give resonance to this superb anatomy of obsession....Painful and powerful work by one of England's best novelists."
"Review" by , "The opening scene in Enduring Love is absolutely riveting....Enduring Love gracefully bridges genres; it's a psychological thriller, a meditation on the narrative impulse, a novel of ideas. McEwan's prose is deft, unself-conscious and a joy to read. Here's a book that kept me up all night, mesmerized and entertained."
"Synopsis" by , US
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