Part thriller, part psychological study, part farce, Amsterdam is one of the prize’s most polarising winners. Even Ian McEwan himself admitted it had a ‘rather improbable comic plot’.

According to McEwan, the story – a mixture of love, friendship, politics, media ethics, and euthanasia – grew out of a ‘long-running joke’. Not all critics were in on it and, as the author later noted, the novel’s ‘(as opposed to my) misfortune was to win the Booker Prize, at which point some people began to dismiss it’.

Only some people though. In a sly dig at previous winners’ humblebrags, McEwan promised to spend his winnings ‘on something perfectly useless’ rather than on ‘bus fares and linoleum’. 

Ian McEwan
Published by
Jonathan Cape
A fragile friendship descends into hatred and revenge, in Ian McEwan’s darkly humorous 1998 Booker Prize-winning novel.

The Shortlist

Prize winner
Master Georgie
England, England
The Industry of Souls
Breakfast on Pluto
The Restraint of Beasts

The 1998 judges