Having access to new university libraries means that I occasionally visit the fiction section and borrow books to read on the train while I commute (and when I say occasionally, I really mean pretty much every time I go to the library). I have read a lot of Ian McEwan’s more recent work but I haven’t been able to get hold of his earlier works until now. This collection of short stories definitely shows how far McEwan has come since his debut in the mid-1970s with ‘First Love, Last Rites’.
It’s easy to see why McEwan’s work garnered so much attention when it was first published given that the stories here are a pretty macabre bunch and not easily forgettable in terms of their subject matter which ranges from paedophilia to torture. ‘Solid Geometry’ is certainly an ‘interesting’ opening to the collection. If you can get through that, then you will probably manage the other seven stories which are equally warped.
The collection feels very experimental and it is obvious that McEwan was in the process of finding his real voice as a writer having recently completed a Creative Writing course at the University of East Anglia. It is interesting to see how much the style of McEwan’s prose has changed over the years and how sophisticated his later works are compared to his earlier efforts. This is not to say that ‘First Love, Last Rites’ isn’t worth reading but I probably wouldn’t recommend it to those who haven’t read McEwan’s other work as it really isn’t representative of what he is capable of.
Having read ‘First Love, Last Rites’, I am not exactly rushing out to get a copy of McEwan’s first novel ‘The Cement Garden’ which deals with similarly grim themes. However, I am still looking forward to reading ‘Sweet Tooth’ in the near future. For now, I think I’ll stick with McEwan’s more recent work written at the peak of his writing powers.