Jeremy, a man who never knew his parents, easily falls in love with his in-laws Bernard and June. He is so enraptured by them, that he takes on the task of writing June’s memoirs. As he tries to get as many facts as possible as she lays dying in her hospital bed, her mind constantly returns to her traumatic incident with the black dogs. In Ian McEwan’s 1992 novel Black Dogs, McEwan composed an entire novel (including the preface) from the perspective of Jeremy.
Ian McEwan uses the metaphor of black dogs to examine communism in Europe; and, as always, he does so with his signature poetic prose style. Bernard and June, former members of the communist party, have fundamentally grown apart thanks to June’s encounter with the black dogs. Although the full story of that incident is withheld until the final chapter, the intensity of it is well worth the wait.
Much of the novel involves the characters espousing their thoughts about current events circa the late 1980s. While most of this is such old news that readers might find it dull, it does provide a vivid look at post-Nazi European society and the fall of the Berlin Wall. (Plus that story about the black dogs is really intense.)
Although Black Dogs is not one of McEwan’s best works, it still exemplifies his skills as a writer and storyteller. He was, and still is, a superb European author.