Cover Image: Lessons


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3 stars. I do not plan to review this title - I read the entire novel but found it somewhat tedious and not what I had hoped for from this author.

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While the subject matter of this got under my skin in not the best ways as an educator, I really loved this book. Ian McEwan can tell a story truly like nobody else can. His writing can feel like work at times, but the work pays off, and it did here in Spades. By the end of the book I was staring out in awe like I do after everything I read by him.

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“Lessons” is a rich and rewarding novel. It’s one of those rare novels that breathes life and enriches (including this one) the readers mind and touches the soul.

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Wonderfully written, and it felt more even and steady in its writing than do many of the other Ian McEwan novels I've read--which sometimes feel like they tend to rely on a single, breathtaking scene, around which every other scene revolves and is subordinate to. There is a sweep of time and event covered here in this novel that feels both emotionally and historically accurate. I enjoyed the way the protagonist's life dovetailed and was influenced by his reaction and participation in world events. But I'm a little tired of child abuse and its aftermath as means to define a given novel's protagonist. My appreciation for the novel also suffered because, I realized halfway through, I simply expect more on every level from an Ian McEwan novel, on account of the literary prominence he enjoys. It's unfair of me to expect more of every book he writes. But knowing that it's unfair doesn't change my bias.

I enjoyed this novel more than Atonement (which left me feeling manipulated), but less than Saturday, which left me feeling continuously surprised.

I'm glad to have read it.

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Thank you Netgalley and Mr. McEwan for the ARC copy of "Lessons." This was an extremely slow paced book, definitely felt like a McEwan book. This is not "Atonement" but definitely a good read. The book is about the life of Ronald Baines which is in a way connected with historical happenings around the world. This is the first book where I encountered the COVID-19 virus. I have so many fucked up feelings regarding the book and with the characters. Would I read it on my own volition? Probably not. However, I would not deny its literary merits and that Mr. McEwan is one of the renowned author alive today.

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Thanks to Netgalley for an ARC of this book, in return for a fair and honest review.

This book is long - but it was worth it. It's a long, rambling narrative of the life of the protagonist, Roland Baines, including all sorts of historical references - the fall of the Berlin wall, the Cuban missile crisis, Chernobyl, and so on, up until COVID at the last part of the book. There's quite a story about his relationship with his parents, and about a mystery in his mother's past that isn't known until shortly before her death. The key relationships, tho, are about his sexual relationship with his piano teacher as a schoolboy, and his relationship with his wife, Alissa, who walked out on him and their baby, in order to devote herself to being a writer.

There are numerous issues that are discussed in this book, but two that interested me the most. First, the male-female power balances. I found it fascinating that in his parents' generation, we seemed to see men running the family, with wives pretty much doing as they were told - we saw this is Roland's parents, as well as in the story of Alissa's mother. However, in Roland's life, women were the controlling forces, starting with his piano teacher. Throughout his life, he seemed to be spending his time reacting to the decisions made by women. Just interesting, but I think he pretty much attributed all his life choices to reactions to the actions of women.

And along with all of this goes the question of an adult woman sexually taking advantage of a boy? In life, there seems to be an attitude of "well, hey, any boy would love to have an adult woman be sexually obsessed with him, lucky guy!" - without considering that sexual abuse by an adult is not going to be free of emotional/physical consequences, regardless of gender.

The second, and a related issue that I found interesting, was the question of whether an artist is justified in causing any and all hurt to other people in pursuit of their art. Here, it's set up quite clearly as whether the action is seen differently depending on the artist's gender - in this case, a woman walking out on her baby, refusing to ever see him, and writing books that vilified other people, causing them great pain (thinking here of her mother, many of whose former friends didn't even come to her funeral, because of Alissa's biased and not necessarily truthful portrayal of Jane). Is it okay to ignore the consequences of what you write, based on your assertion that "oh, get over it. It's just fiction," even if the "fiction" includes numerous data that comes directly from your life? And, a question that also struck me, does it matter if the work is "great," - Alissa is portrayed as Germany's greatest writer. Would the balance be the same if she were churning out potboilers? And, why has this sort of harm to others been pretty much accepted from male artists, but not so clearly okay from female artists?

These are by no means the only issues in this book - but a couple that intrigued me as I was reading. There are numerous things to think about as you read it, so it's definitely not going to be a fast read - but there was a lot here to think about.

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A Man Remembering a Piano Lesson

McEwan’s opening scene is startling and introduces the reader to an overwhelming, complicated novel. We meet Roland Baines when he is eleven years old. During a piano lesson, his voracious and beautiful piano teacher touches him. She preoccupies him on many levels. We meet Ms. Cornell again and she provides carnal instruction. She is arrogant telling Rolland that he will spend the rest of his life “looking for what you had here.” The encounter haunts him, sometimes a curse, sometimes a prophecy.

In later years, Roland’s life becomes very sad when his wife, Alissa, leaves him with their seven-month-old son, Lawrence. Why did she leave? How could she leave her child? Drifting seems to be one of McEwan’s themes. Roland wanders from job to job, squandering many chances. His complacency can annoy the reader.

As in many novels concerning boys and men, they are haunted by their loving but reticent mothers who are hiding some guilt and shame from their children. And once again, it is the females who give love and embitter their sons, wives and lovers. Lessons to be learned for sure. The novel was engrossing and spanned spectacles and global events in history. It is a good tale, but complicated and often I needed to put it down and take a breath.

My gratitude to Net Galley and Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group for this pre-published book. All opinions expressed are my

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Alissa Eberhardt had abandoned her husband, Roland, and her son, Lawrence to begin a literary career. She was living her mother's life, retracing its pattern exactly. She has a difficult relationship with her mother. After reading her mother's journals, she had been in a state of strange and fluctuating moods.

Alissa's departure had weakened him. Never crossed his mind that her behavior was depraved and despicable in the ruthless pursuit of her new life. Meanwhile, Roland's youth was not gone from him yet. This is a story between himself and his past that is never to be spoken out loud through the prism of war, his father's nerves at sight, his mother's secret, having passionate affair with an older woman, reminiscing about his Berlin days of the late seventies until now.

The novel was clearly brilliant with rising and falls that were expertly narrated. Thanks to @netgalley and @aaknopf for providing an earc. This is worth 5 ⭐️


#donereading #Lessons by #IanMcEwan #emabaca #goodreads #ebookstagram #igreads #malaysiamembaca #kindlepaperwhite

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3.5★ rounded to 4.

In Lessons, Ian McEwan tells the life story of Roland Baines. Eleven-year-old Roland was sent to boarding school. He has piano lessons with a strict teacher, Miriam Cornell, whom he will remember for the rest of his life. Later, when he marries Alisa, she soon leaves him alone with their infant son.

Alisa is later a successful novelist. It seems she got there because she abandoned her family. Roland is a talented pianist, poet, and even a tennis teacher. But he was never really successful at any of those things because he struggled as a single parent. One question lingers in the air. Can you achieve success if you have children or a family?

This novel is quite an ambitious work. It starts pretty slowly. Further on, there is really a lot of material, events, people, and details. And this could get confusing, especially at the beginning. But everything connects towards the end.

The title refers to piano lessons, but this novel can also be a brief history lesson. We can read about quite some global events from the past, for example, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Chernobyl radiation in the 80s, the Cuban missile crisis, recent pandemics, and others. Some of those global events affected and changed the lives of the characters.

Overall, this novel is an impressive achievement by Ian McEwan, but unfortunately, it’s not a book that is very readable. It’s pretty slow, and sometimes you would really need it to move faster. I would say that for many readers, it will be overwhelming. I felt it too. That it is too broad, and there are too many events captured in this novel.

Thanks to Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group for the ARC! This is a voluntary review, and all opinions are my own.

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I am a fan of Ian McEwan and always read his novels, every one so different yet always so distinctly by McEwan. But I wasn't immediately pulled into this one, and found myself reading other novels first. But then it was time, and I began again, and was intrigued (if disgusted!) as his lessons began as the novel opened. Roland wasn't at all likeable as an adolescent and never really became so throughout the novel, but nor were any of the other characters (except Daphne and Lawrence) likeable. This is not unusual of course for McEwan's novels. Then came some Roland (McEwan?) authorial and ponderous contemplations about life and the state of the world, and I almost skipped through a few pages. But how in character for Roland, a man in his seventies (who is acting far older than his me this man feels and acts and thinks more like a man of 86), and re-living his disappointing past. But now I was drawn in, and stayed drawn in, needing to find out the secrets of Roland's past which McEwan wasn't going to reveal any time soon. Of course McEwan's writing is superb and for that alone I would always, sooner or later, finish his books. Cliches' do not exist in his writing unless of course his character is musing about them! Roland's muttering thoughts about his past and the people in it, usually women who have damaged him or who he has damaged are set in the changing events of those decades, so it is a ride through recent history, ending of course with the lockdowns and the tedium of covid, especially for the elderly anxious. Thank goodness for his last wife, Daphne, a sane and kind woman, and thank goodness for Lawrence, the son that Roland was his best person for. There are no prettily tidy ends of course, and I was left feeling that somehow I was getting more than a glimpse into the author's past as well as Roland's; perhaps not the people, but certainly the way events have shaped him (and in the poet and music side of him, and of course in his first wife, Alissa, who became the brilliant and celebrated author that McEwan himself is, along with many of his close friends). So in the end, this is again a 5 star read for me, and reminds me that if I know a writer is superb and I love his books, it is worthwhile persisting even if a novel in its early stages doesn't appeal or hold my attention.

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What an incredible journey into the arts and how it is used to help heal people. McEwan allows you to see and feel the problems and pain that the characters experience. So well done.

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In Ian McEwan’s long awaited novel Lessons, we follow Roland Blaine as he reflects over the span of his life. Roland’s life is recounted in light of two core experiences which influence the trajectory of his life. The historical and political landscape of the past 70 years provide the backdrop for the exposition of the Roland’s relationship’s, lifestyle, choices, betrayals and missed opportunities. Lessons is at once very intimate and global in its scope.

Lessons like many well written books about less than likable characters will not appeal to everyone. I have to admit I struggled to relate to the main character. But, if you enjoy character driven narratives in which one can reflect on the ways in which a life is shaped and distorted by both personal and bigger sociological events. Lessons may be the book for you.

Thank you @netgalley & @knopfdoubleday for this gifted digital copy in exchange for an honest review.

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Lessons is an extraordinary book written by an extraordinarily gifted writer, and I am grateful to him, Knopf, and NetGalley for providing me an advanced digital copy for my honest review. Lessons is the most recent in a long, celebrated list of books written by Ian McEwan, winner of multiple, prestigious literary awards including the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Booker Prize, and the Whitbread Award.

The story follows the protagonist through the majority of history’s major events, from World War II through the current pandemic, jumping seamlessly between past and present events, always from the protagonist’s point of view. He lives life haphazardly, not seeming to accomplish much, but having a full life nonetheless. We feel his deep emotions as he lives his first few years freely as a British military Captain’s son in colonial Libya, then banished to a boarding school in England where he becomes in thrall to his piano teacher, and later when he’s left by his wife to raise their infant son alone, and on and on throughout his life until he is an old man in his seventies with stepchildren and grandchildren and having lived through multiple losses and deaths, and remembering and reliving and returning to various previous times in his life. Parts of the book are so brilliantly written as to be among the best prose I’ve ever read, while other parts seemed to drag a bit and, to me, could have been cut a bit shorter. Nevertheless, the book in it’s entirety is nothing short of a masterpiece.

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I am generally a fan of Ian McEwan's work, but this one is less compelling than usual. The story plods along through multiple character's stories over decades and lacks the energy needed to carry it. At the core is an interesting story idea: a teenage boy manipulated by his piano teacher until he walks squarely in to her seduction plot and how that impacts his life and relationships henceforth.

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From famed author Ian McEwan, a heartbreaking book about child sexual abuse and the decades of the ripple effect it has on a person.
Roland’s life spans numerous historical events, but the most affecting moment for him happened during his elementary years when his piano teacher, a young attractive lady, grooms and shapes him into her playtoy. We age along with Roland and witness as his view of those years slowly evolves and he comes to grips with what really happened.
This would be a difficult book to read for a survivor of child sexual abuse. The cleverness of Miss Miriam Cornell and the weakness of young Ian is heartbreaking. She steals his childhood and makes him responsible for what she has done. As his remaining years unfold and he witnesses numerous major moments in history, the aspect that keeps him off balance and unable to live a full and happy life always goes back to those moments with his piano teacher.
Ian also has the uncanny luck to fall in love with a woman who decides she didn’t mean to be a wife and mother. Instead, she’s meant to be an author. She does become an internationally famous author, but at what cost to the husband and child she walked out on?
This is one man’s story; a believable chain of unfortunate events that slowly pushes Ian along thru his years. With tenderness and astoundingly cold accuracy, McEwan dissects a young boy’s life.
Thanks so much to Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group for an ARC in exchange for my honest review.

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I could not connect with the main character. The book is about Roland from his childhood to his senior year, what he lived and past through history. What influeced him and what was influeced by him.

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I wanted to love this newest work by Ian McEwan, but didn't. The story follows a man going back through his life against the backdrop of some of modern history's biggest moments following his divorce. It was long. Maybe it tried to put in too much. But something didn't strike a cord with me. If you enjoy overarching, memoir esque stories then you will love this.

Thank you netgalley and publisher for the dARC of this work in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are mine.

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The publisher of this book called it a masterpiece. Having read that before I read the book, I had high expectations. Sometimes expectations can be surpassed: this was one of those times. As a new reader to Ian McEwan, I had no preconceives about his writing before this novel.

Lessons is the story of an overly protected, vulnerable child who was sent to an English boarding school at the age of eleven, where his innocence would end. McEwan weaves a story of Roland Baines restless life through adolescence to fatherhood to maturity. Although Roland had multiple talents, his life consisted of lost opportunities and lack of commitment, living hand to mouth much of the time.

Women play a vital role in Roland’s life: a protective mother, an abusive teacher, an absent wife (who leaves him with a seven-month-old baby boy) and his best friend/later wife whose life was cut too short. McEwan give each of these women in-depth characterization: I felt sympathy for the first, revulsion for the second and third, and empathy for the fourth.

One of the reasons that I enjoyed this book was that Roland’s life is presented in relationship to historical events of the day. I am the same age as he, so I remember how I felt as a young teen during the Cuban Missile Crisis, as a young adult when the Berlin Wall fell, and in my 70’s during Covid. There is also considerable back history as Roland tells the stories of his parents and his in-laws.

The depth of this novel is what makes it so appealing. McEwan is a masterful storyteller.
I thank Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group and NetGalley for an advanced copy of this book. My opinions are my own.

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Pub date: 9/13/22
Genre: literary fiction
One sentence summary: Lessons follows the life of Roland Baines from post-WWII London to the COVID pandemic.
Trigger warnings: sexual abuse, child abandonment, physical violence

I really respect what McEwan was trying to do with this book - family sagas are some of my favorite books to read, and it's wonderful when writers can capture how people and the world change over time. Unfortunately, there was too much going on in this book for me to really enjoy it. Not only did it cover a huge period of time, it also went into way too much detail about mundane things and jumped around in time a lot, so it was hard to get my bearings as a reader. The long sentences/paragraphs/chapters also didn't help - it was hard to keep everything straight in my mind. I enjoyed the audio narration by Simon McBurney, but the time hops made it difficult to listen and comprehend everything going on.

If you are a literary fiction superfan, you may enjoy this one more than I did.

Thank you to Knopf for my ARC and Books for my ALC.

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"Lessons" by Ian McEwan is a poetic, linked in history, melancholy tale of a boy's life. I appreciated the world events and various destinations, as well as traumas in his life leaving deep impact, as well influencing the life of the main character. Thank you NetGalley, the author and publisher for the e-copy for review. All opinions are my own.

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