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Lessons cover art

Lessons

By: Ian McEwan
Narrated by: Simon McBurney
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Summary

Brought to you by Penguin.

A mesmerising novel from Ian McEwan, the bestselling author of Atonement. The world is forever changing. But for so many of us, old wounds run deep. Lessons is an intimate yet universal story of love, regret and a restless search for answers.

While the world is still counting the cost of the Second World War and the Iron Curtain has descended, young Roland Baines's life is turned upside down. Stranded at boarding school, his vulnerability attracts his piano teacher, Miriam Cornell, leaving scars as well as a memory of love that will never fade.

Twenty-five years later, as the radiation from the Chernobyl disaster spreads across Europe, Roland's wife mysteriously vanishes and he is forced to confront the reality of his rootless existence and look for answers in his family history.

From the fall of the Berlin Wall to the Covid 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 ­- literature, travel, friendship, drugs, politics, sex and love. 

His journey raises important questions. Can we take full charge of the course of our lives without damage to others? How do global events beyond our control shape us and our memories? What role do chance and contingency play in our existence? And what can we learn from the traumas of the past?

©2022 Ian McEwan (P)2022 Penguin Audio

Critic reviews

"The supreme novelist of his generation." (Sunday Times)

"McEwan is one of the most accomplished craftsmen of plot and prose." (New York Times)

"A true master." (Daily Telegraph)

What listeners say about Lessons

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This will make you think!

I loved this book. I thought to start with that the story was going to go a completely different way. You have to really understand what effect Roland's abuse by Miriam Cornell has on his entire life and choices. Very well narrated too. I think this would make a good set text for A-level as there is so much in it - human behaviour and psychology, social and world history from WWII right up to the pandemic, all sorts.

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Personal history

A lot of this is my own life from the historical aspect although I am younger than the protagonist. A brilliant listen if tough at times and mainly easy to follow. I have heard some negative things about the style of the book so will be interested to read it when available from the library

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McEwan at his best

Beautiful storytelling that makes you think and feel. Unpretentious and elegant writing style that’s rich and engaging. Narrator is a perfect match.

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Beautifully read- utterly tedious

I really liked The Cement Garden. (Also a great film.) Since then - and since A Child In Time - the author has been progressively disappearing up the proverbial. Perhaps Atonement was the nadir? There a moments of quite sensitive and touching perceptions. As the novels unfolds, and round and round it goes, the cumulative impact is ever more turgid. It is read beautifully.

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Wonderful writing

This is a marvellous novel with some of the finest descriptions of various emotions ever. And the plot and characters are beautifully drawn.

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What lesson?

If this book is autobiography it inevitably lacks a conclusion. However the story is well told and its reflection and retrospective content becomes increasingly immersive to the reader.

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Wonderful

Beautifully written intertwined fictional memoir of a life supposedly not lived with contemporary political history. Surprisingly uplifting. It’s actually warm and lively and intellectual all at the same time. Brilliantly read by the narrator too.

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A true account of a life through generations

Now that I have finished listening, I’m mourning the loss of the characters. Although this is fiction, based around historical events (showing the passage of time), every inch of every character breathes life.
Thank you Ian McEwan.

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Just sublime

An immense novel of heart and head beautifully written and read. I was enthralled throughout and I’m tempted to go straight back to the beginning and start over.

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Beautiful

A beautiful ending to a very human story but it has a fairy tale quality too.

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