Ian McEwan, our foremost storyteller, returns with an ambitious, mesmerising new novel. Lessons is a chronicle of our times - a powerful meditation on history and humanity told through the prism of one man’s lifetime.
When the world is still counting the cost of the Second World War and the Iron Curtain has closed, eleven-year-old Roland Baines's life is turned upside down. 2,000 miles from his mother's protective love, stranded at an unusual boarding school, his vulnerability attracts piano teacher Miss Miriam Cornell, leaving scars as well as a memory of love that will never fade.
Now, when his wife vanishes, leaving him alone with his tiny son, Roland is forced to confront the reality of his restless existence. As the radiation from Chernobyl spreads across Europe, he begins a search for answers that looks deep into his family history and will last for the rest of his life.
From the Suez Crisis to the Cuban Missile Crisis, the fall of the Berlin Wall to the current pandemic and climate change, Roland sometimes rides with the tide of history, but more often struggles against it. Haunted by lost opportunities, he seeks solace through every possible means - music, literature, friends, sex, politics and, finally, love cut tragically short, then love ultimately redeemed. His journey raises important questions for us all. Can we take full charge of the course of our lives without damage to others? How do global events beyond our control shape our lives and our memories? And what can we really learn from the traumas of the past?
Select Interviews and Podcasts
The Guardian, Lisa Allardice: "Ian McEwan on ageing, legacy and the attack on his friend Salman Rushdie: ‘It’s beyond the edge of human cruelty’." 3 September 2022.
New Statesman, Tom Gatti: "Ian McEwan’s long look back." 7 September 2022.
Saturday Times - Interview with Andrew Billen: Ian McEwan: ‘My last novel? I feel as if I’ve said as much as I know’. 10 September 2022.
BBC Radio 4 - Open Book: BBC Sounds – 11 & 15 September 2022
BBC World Service - Arts Hour – 11 September 2022
BBC Radio 4 - Today Programme – 13 September 2022 (from 1.41.00 to 1.45.56)
Radio 3 - Free Thinking – 14 September 2022
Times Radio with Mariella Frostrup – 14 September 2022
LBC Andrew Marr – 15 September 2022
SPECTATOR BOOKS PODCAST – 14 September
JAMES O’BRIEN FULL DISCLOSURE PODCAST – 15 September
SHAKESPEARE AND CO PODCAST – 15 September
ADAM BUXTON PODCAST – 14 October
PENGUIN PODCAST – forthcoming
BBC HISTORY ‘HISTORY EXTRA’
"Always Take Notes Podcast." 21 Feb 2023 [Ian McEwan discusses his writing career, from childhood to his latest novel "Lessons"; Audio; 1:01:54 mins]
Selected Reviews and Criticism
“Lessons should have made the Booker longlist (and shortlist) but no matter. It marks a significant new phase in McEwan’s already astonishingly productive career – and may well be remembered as one of the finest humanist novels of its age.” - New Statesman
“Lessons, [McEwan’s] 18th novel, is a tour de force of breadth.” - Sunday Times
“A wonderful author has delivered another mesmerising, memorable novel.” - The Independent
“McEwan’s prose always goes down like a cool drink, and its content is often trenchant…I’m delighted to have added this thoughtful, touching and historically grounded novel to my bookshelf.” - Lionel Shriver, Financial Times
“The Booker-winning author has woven multiple versions of himself into Lessons, his 500-page masterpiece” - Andrew Billen, The Times
“A moving and masterful work that captures the essence of McEwan….The book’s psychological astuteness and elegant prose, is a thrill to behold.” - Irish Independent
‘Compassionate and gentle, and so bereft of cynicism it feels almost radical….’ - Beejay Silcox, The Guardian
“McEwan's deft, descriptive prose charts the complexity of growing up and finding one's place in an ever-shifting world.” - Culture Whisper
“[A] big, detailed, sweep of history: starting in the aftermath of World War Two and ending in lockdown. And there’s lots going on here other than history too – family drama, tales from boarding school, and a vanishing wife.” - You Magazine, Mail on Sunday