For those of a literary bent, I’d say it was about as good as Saturday, ie: not one of his best, but still both good and entertaining.
For those of an advertising bent, one sentence in particular caught my eye. It describes the passage of the main character through Heathrow Airport:
‘An avenue of ads for banking and office services, weakly humorous, effortfully eye-catching – clearly, advertising was an industry for third raters – increased his irritation…’
Nice to be dismissed so cleanly and sharply.
However, it might be worth remembering that airport advertising is some of the worst there is: two-word puns over metaphorical pictures of wildlife vie for space with dismal attempts by perfume brands to distinguish themselves from one another.
But overall, is McEwan right? Are we third raters?
Certainly when compared to Nobel Prize-winners, rock gods, successful head teachers in sink estates, Olympic athletes, film directors etc. we are indeed a rung or two below some others. But then we can probably count ourselves a rung or two above shelf stackers, cell-centre operators or people who bum others for money.
Perhaps, after due consideration, ‘third rate’ is something of a compliment.
Then again, of course it fucking isn’t.