Today Lessons, the new sweeping epic by Ian McEwan is published. It is a captivating interpretation of the microcosm within the macrocosm, a thought provoking theme that has been explored in literature for centuries.
McEwan’s intimate and powerful narrative is the story of baby boomer Roland Baines. Roland’s life represents the microcosm as the complexity of his early life is portrayed, as is the sexual abuse by his seductive piano teacher, Miriam Cornell. Although Roland never really views himself as victim, the impact of his time with Miriam haunts him and his subsequent relationships with women for the rest of his life.
Aged 11, Roland is sent to boarding school where he is forced by his domineering father to take piano lessons. Roland’s vulnerability attracts the attention of Miriam who is in her 20s.
Setting Roland’s life against a backdrop of historical events including World War II, the fall of the Berlin Wall and most recently, the Covid pandemic, McEwan brilliantly portrays the macrocosm, and how these momentous episodes in global history dramatically shape Roland’s life. For example, is it the Cuban Missile Crisis and 14 year-old Roland’s fear of a nuclear war that seals his fate?
I have to admit that when I initially began reading Lessons, I did struggle a tad. I just couldn’t engage with the first few chapters. But then something happened, I’m not exactly sure what, but soon I was completely mesmerised by the narrative. I found it to be such an immersive and beautifully thought provoking read.
Since finishing it a few weeks ago I have seen that Lessons has been reviewed by many of the media critics. That’s not surprising as it is the latest novel by Ian McEwan, ‘The supreme novelist of his generation‘ the Sunday Times states. However what I did find so surprising reading these reviews is the many similarities Ian McEwan shares with his protagonist. Both Roland and Ian were born in 1948, both went to boarding school, both were deserted by their wives and left to bring up young children, both had fathers who were Majors in the army. There are even more similarities but I do not want to give away any spoilers.
Almost 500 pages long, Lessons is McEwan’s longest book yet. I’ve not read all of his books, but I have read a few including the critically acclaimed Atonement. Yet for me Lessons is my favourite by far. It’s also one of my favourite books of this year.
Thank you to Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for inviting me to the blog tour of Lessons. It has been an absolute privilege to read, review and kick off the blog tour of this epic read.
To read the book reviews from my fellow bloggers also on the Lessons blog tour, please see below.
Lessons is published on Tuesday 13 September 2022.