MixedThe New York Review of BooksThe style of Sweet Days of Discipline might be called deadpan mystificatory. There are no aids to grasping the connection between discipline, madness, and death which the novel seems to be proposing ... Jaeggy’s tone is abrupt, and there is a kind of dismissive haughtiness (not unlike Frédérique’s) about the way she leaves her readers to flounder, and about her carelessness too. Carelessness seems incongruous in a work that has perfection and perfectionism among its principal themes ... The short narrative—one hundred pages—is dotted with repetitions, loose ends, and unexplained transitions: How, for instance, does the narrator get to know of Frédérique’s attempt to incinerate her mother? And how does the mother manage to find the narrator? These flaws are irritating in a novel as free from fougue and as tight-lipped as this, and so is the literary name-dropping (beginning with Walser). But in spite of them, and because of its hypnotic intensity, this is a gripping, even haunting work: powerful and hard to shake off.
RaveThe New York Review of Books... an intricate satirical jeu d’esprit and topical to the point of Tom Wolfeishness. It is also funnier than anything McEwan has written before, though just as lethal ... a thriller as well as a farce, with a plot whose extreme convolution and plethora of unlikely coincidences reads as a sendup of the thriller genre ... McEwan is among the most idiosyncratic of British novelists, even if he doesn’t seem interested in experimental writing. His prose is precise and revelatory, and whatever he writes about comes up fresh, luminous, and surprising, like a familiar painting recently cleaned ... The contrast between McEwan’s superclean prose and lay-preacher stance on the one hand, and his steamy, ghoulish, tender, sometimes even mawkish subject matter and moods on the other, make him dangerously attractive and repellent at the same time.