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The Number One bestseller from the author of Atonement and Enduring Love: Sweet Tooth is a story of love and espionage in 1970s Britain

From the bestselling author of Atonement and Enduring Love comes ‘A web of spying, subterfuge, deceit and betrayal... Acute, witty...winningly cunning’ Sunday Times

The year is 1972. The Cold War is far from over. Britain is being torn apart by industrial unrest and terrorism. Serena Frome, in her final year at Cambridge, is being groomed for MI5.

Serena is sent on a secret mission – Operation Sweet Tooth – which brings her into the world of Tom Haley, a promising young writer. First she loves his stories, then she begins to love the man. Can she maintain the fiction of her undercover life? And who is inventing whom? To answer these questions, Serena must abandon the first rule of espionage – trust no one.


Riveting... Delicious... Gripping


Sweet Tooth takes the expectations and tropes of the Cold War thriller and ratchets up the suspense, while turning it into something else... A well-crafted pleasure to read, its smooth prose and slippery intelligence sliding down like cream

Amanda Craig, Independent

A thoroughly clever novel...a sublime novel about novels, about writing them and reading them and the spying that goes on in doing both...very impressive...rich and enjoyable

Lucy Kellaway, Financial Times

Gloriously readable and, at times, wickedly funny

Arminta Wallace, Irish Times

Playful, comic... This is a great big Russian doll of a novel, and in its construction – deft, tight, exhilaratingly immaculate – is a huge part of its pleasure...exerts a keen emotional pull

Julie Myerson, Observer

Highly readable

John Lanchester, Guardian, Books of the Year

McEwan’s mastery dazzles us in this superbly deft and witty story of betrayal and intrigue, love, and the invented self


Fans of Ian McEwan should rejoice with the arrival of this novel... An extraordinary, irresistible work of fiction

Sunday Business Post

One of the most hotly anticipated novels of the year...it’s brilliant

Sunday Business Post

I loved it. It reminded me of his most successful novel, Atonement

Harpers Bazaar Online

Ian McEwan proves he’s still the master penman with his twelfth novel


McEwan’s prose is controlled, his observation forensic as ever... McEwan carries us with irresistible momentum to a surprise ending

Maggie Ferguson, Intelligent Life


Evening Standard ES Magazine

Full of ideas

Claire Allfree, Metro



Fans of Ian McEwan should rejoice with this arrival of this novel, because Sweet Tooth is McEwan's finest work since 2001's Atonement

Kevin Power, Sunday Business Post

Given McEwan’s ability to make riveting fiction out of English politics (not easy), it would be hard to imagine anyone better equipped to write such a story... Delicious... Gripping

James Lasdun, Guardian

His assumption of a female persona is pitch-perfect

Michael Arditti, Daily Mail

Had McEwan, through Serena’s benefit of hindsight in narrating her life, planted the clues? Let every reader have the pleasure of finding out

Ion Trewin, Sunday Express

An artful game of distortion... Clever handling

Anthony Quinn, Mail on Sunday

A curious piece of autobiographical fiction

David Sexton, Evening Standard

A wisecracking thriller hightailing between love and betrayal, with serious counter-espionage credentials thrown in... This is ultimately a book about writing, wordplay and knowingness

Catherine Taylor, Sunday Telegraph

No contemporary novelist is more enthralled by what goes on inside the human skull than Ian McEwan... Sweet Tooth, which juxtaposes contrasting casts of mind, reminds you that, as well as intelligence, the intelligence service fascinates McEwan... Always excellent at conjuring up places and periods on the cusp of dramatic change... McEwan atmospherically resurrects the strife-ridden Britain of 1972 -73... Similarities and contrasts between the mentality and mind games of the secret service and those of the creative writer are increasingly brought to the fore. Doubling back and forth across genre boundaries, Sweet Tooth takes risks: narrative loiterings and twists whose purpose isn’t at first apparent, a payoff that is long delayed. But – ideally read more than once – this acute, witty novel is a winningly cunning addition to McEwan’s fictional surveys of intelligence

Peter Kemp, Sunday Time

Must read... Intrigue, love and mutual betrayal by a master of the art

The Lady

The great thing about McEwan is that, despite his success, he continues to work hard, producing ever more accessible and entertaining stories

Henry Sutton, Daily Mirror

Carefully researched

John Scarlett, Daily Telegraph

McEwan, as always, presents an engaging narrator... The plot is fantastic... McEwan plays with the readers expectations, and surpasses them all with a fabulous ending that makes me itch to re-read this superb novel all over again. Sweet Tooth marks another triumph for a brilliant British author


A pleasing, tricksy beast with a subsumed sense of metatextuality likely to be pleasing to his fans


Adroitly done...highly diverting

D.J. Taylor, Literary Review

A triumphant shedding of genre limitations

Adam Mars-Jones, London Review of Books

This most cunning of authors entertains and manipulates his readers. Sweet Tooth is a masterclass in the art of fiction

Paul Sidey, Book Oxygen

Ian McEwan is getting better and better… Supremely tense, intellectually sharp, and honed as hell

William Leith, Evening Standard

McEwan’ssmoothly contrived thriller hightails between love and betrayal, with serious counter-espionage credentials thrown in

Sunday Telegraph Seven

An expertly crafted thriller written with a bucketload of suspense and wit

Hannah Britt, Daily Express

As richly textured as anything Ian McEwan has written


Brilliantly cunning… It’s a story of love, betrayal and duplicity, with the most startling deception reserved for the final pages

Mail on Sunday (You)

Playful, clever, knowing and full of stories

Absolutely Chelsea

Supremely tense, intellectually sharp, and honed as hell

William Leith, Scotsman

Beyond virtuoso twists and turns, McEwan lays out the foreign landscape of 40 years ago – from smoky pubs to fuming punditry – with wry, affectionate panache

Boyd Tonkin

Tricksy, but satisfying

Justin Cartwright, Observer

The sense of narrative purpose exerts its pull from the first

John Mullan, Guardian

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Formats & editions

  • Paperback


    May 1, 2013


    384 pages

    RRP $19.99

    Online retailers

    • Abbey's Bookshop
    • Angus & Robertson Bookworld
    • Booktopia
    • Boomerang Books
    • Collins Booksellers
    • Dymocks
    • Books Kinokuniya
    • The Nile
    • QBD
    • Readings
    • Robinsons Bookshop

    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au

  • EBook


    August 23, 2012

    Vintage Digital

    384 pages

    Online retailers

    • iBooks
    • Amazon Kindle
    • Booktopia
    • eBooks
    • Google Play
    • Kobo

    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au

  • Audio Book


    August 23, 2012


    RRP $35.00

    Online retailers


    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au

Also by Ian McEwan

On Chesil Beach (Vintage Summer)
The Children Act
First Love, Last Rites
For You
On Chesil Beach
Rose Blanche
Black Dogs
The Innocent
Enduring Love
The Child In Time
In Between the Sheets
The Comfort Of Strangers
The Cement Garden
The Daydreamer


Best Laid Plans
Fifty Shades Darker
The Handmaid's Tale
To Kill A Mockingbird
New Boy
Bridget Jones’s Baby
Rushing Waters
Echo Burning
A Gentleman in Moscow
Fool Me Once
Private Delhi
The Girl on the Train
The Heart's Invisible Furies
Swing Time
The Narrow Road to the Deep North
The Curious Incident of the Dog In the Night-time
The Girls
The Bone Collection
Cold Blood