Tag Archives: Ian McEwan

Books I Read in March 2023

Lessons Ian McEwanLessons by Ian McEwan spans the life of Roland Baines, born shortly after the Second World War. Taking in several major world crises from the Cuban Missile Crisis to the Chernobyl disaster to the COVID-19 pandemic as well as intimate domestic events, ‘Lessons’ is a sprawling epic and easily McEwan’s longest novel. Some elements of Roland’s early life are strongly autobiographical, including his childhood spent partly in Libya and his discovery late in life that he has a half-brother, as McEwan did in 2002. However, it is the repercussions from the piano lessons Roland received at boarding school that have the most significant impact on his life. I read but didn’t review McEwan’s previous novel ‘Machines Like Me’ in 2019 which I didn’t think was among his best work, but I would say that ‘Lessons’ is very much a return to form and genuinely engrossing. Many thanks to Vintage Books for sending me a review copy via NetGalley. Continue reading

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The Innocent by Ian McEwan

The Innocent Ian McEwanAs part of my continuing efforts to read more books from the back catalogues of my favourite authors, I have recently read ‘The Innocent’ by Ian McEwan which tells the story of Leonard Marnham, a twenty-five-year-old British Post Office engineer who has been recruited to work in Berlin in the mid-1950s as part of Operation Gold, a joint Anglo-American top secret project which involved building a tunnel under the Russian sector of Berlin in order to tap communication lines. When Leonard falls in love with an older German divorcee, Maria Eckdorf, their relationship soon becomes entangled with the operation with far-reaching consequences. Continue reading


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Nutshell by Ian McEwan

Nutshell Ian McEwanAlthough Ian McEwan has tackled a vast range of subject matters in his literary fiction, many of his books fall into specific categories or share distinct themes. There are the early macabre works like ‘The Cement Garden’, the espionage stories such as ‘The Innocent’ or Sweet Tooth, the state-of-the-nation novels like ‘Saturday’ or The Children Act and then there are the books like ‘Nutshell’ which somehow fall into all of these categories. Nutshell’ is a unique interpretation of William Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’ from the point of view of an unnamed foetus who overhears a murder plot hatched by his mother Trudy and her lover Claude to kill John, who is Trudy’s husband and Claude’s brother, and cash in on the value of their marital home.
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The Children Act by Ian McEwan

The Children Act‘The Children Act’ by Ian McEwan tells the story of Fiona Maye, a High Court judge in the Family Division who presides over cases involving the welfare of children. One particular case involves Adam Henry, a seventeen year old Jehovah’s Witness whose devoutly religious parents reject a lifesaving blood transfusion to treat his leukaemia. Meanwhile, Fiona is also facing a crisis in her personal life as her husband, Jack, announces that he is leaving her for another woman. Continue reading


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Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan

Sweet Tooth‘Sweet Tooth’ by Ian McEwan tells the story of a young woman called Serena Frome (rhymes with plume) who is recruited by MI5 after she finishes studying at Cambridge University in the early 1970s.  She is assigned to an operation named Sweet Tooth in which a cultural foundation is set up to offer financial assistance to writers who speak out against communism.  However, her romantic relationship with one of the young writers involved in the project, Tom Haley, starts to complicate things.  Continue reading


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First Love, Last Rites by Ian McEwan

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’. Continue reading


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Books That Disappointed Me

I wrote a post a while ago about the books I never finished but I have also read quite a few books I may as well not have finished.  Amongst these, there were some that I had particularly high hopes for yet they turned out to be not what I was expecting at all – and not in a good way.  Here is my list of my biggest literary disappointments:

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

I read Love in the Time of Cholera and really enjoyed it so I was looking forward to reading One Hundred Years of Solitude.  But why oh why oh WHY did all the characters have to have almost the exact same names across the generations?!  Not knowing who was who really hindered my enjoyment of the book which was otherwise beautifully written.  I might be willing to try it again someday but only when I have developed supreme powers of concentration and the ability to decipher a Colombian family tree. Continue reading


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The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson

After reading ‘1Q84’ last week, I felt like tackling something a tad shorter this week (although pretty much anything would seem short after that).  Winner of the 2010 Man Booker Prize, ‘The Finkler Question’ by Howard Jacobson was the first ‘comic’ novel to win the prize since Kingsley Amis won in 1986 with ‘The Old Devils’.  I’ve read some terrible reviews for this book but as part of my ongoing quest to read as many Booker Prize-winning or nominated novels as possible, I thought I’d give it a go anyway when I found it in the library the other day.

‘The Finkler Question’ tells the story of middle-aged former BBC producer Julian Treslove, his old schoolfriend Jewish philosopher Samuel Finkler and their former tutor Libor Sevcik.  It’s certainly not an easy book to fall in love with.  The satire of the BBC was nicely done as were the general observations of relationships and aging but I still think Julian Barnes is more skilled than Jacobson when it comes to incorporating subtle humour and irony into his work. Continue reading


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