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🌟LESSONS🌟 by Ian McEwan ~published September 13, 2022

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ A superbly-written rumination on childhood, parenthood, cause and effect. Sweeping, and consequently, very long!

Thanks so much to @aaknopf and @netgalley for the gifted advance review copy. All thoughts are my own.

Hi, kids! Let’s learn the alphabet today! A is for Absence. Abandonment. Abuse. (No, not Atonement this time…)

We are introduced to single father Roland Baines and his infant son, Lawrence, as Roland reflects on the absence of the two most crucial women in his life – his missing wife, Alissa, and his sexually abusive ex-piano teacher, Miriam Cornell – and how best to move on from them both. It is beautifully and masterfully written (it’s McEwan, afterall), and Roland’s personal turmoil coils itself around the historical upheavals of the time (the Cuban missile crisis, Chernobyl, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and eventually even Covid). The theme of abandonment is strong and is probably what I will remember most months from now – particularly Alissa’s decision to sever herself from her child, so utterly and completely, believing that it was the only way to fulfill her career ambitions. For adoring this one as much as I did, oddly I don’t have much else to say. Brilliant, but a tad too long. Best read in larger chunks, I think. The ending is hopeful!

This review will be posted on October 5 and I will include a link at that time.

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This book follows the life of Roland Baines, his traumas, romantic and family relationships across various historical events, from the World War II to the pandemic.

I’ve found the book slow paced but it is interesting to see those events from Roland’s eyes.
While the prose is beautiful and the book well written, wouldn’t it be from Ian McEwan, the large paragraphs and overall formatting were discouraging, and I would have preferred to read it in the first person.

Thank you Netgalley and Knopf Doubleday Publishinging for the advanced copy of this book.

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Conflicted. I give this high marks mostly on the strength of the prose. The authorial skill is undeniable for me. I was often lost in the sentences that were simple and beautiful. I thought the author was able to make the mundane very compelling.

Having said that... the story... well it's sort of Forest Gumpish (not actually praise from me -- I didn't love Forest Gump) I found myself disconnecting from the actual plot -- which includes a lot of uncomfortable situations. As much as liked the writing I did NOT want to pick up this book, and if I didn't have to give it an honest review, I probably would have dnf'd.

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McEwan is back on form after a few wacky recent writing projects. (Nutshell—really? A sentient fetus realizes that there’s a Hamlet-like plot afoot between his mother and uncle to do away with his father?) Though this new novel is absent the electrifying climactic moments of some of his best novels, it’s a sweeping look back at almost a century of major events, told through the lens of a single, somewhat unremarkable life.

Roland Baines is 11 years old in the late 50s when he’s sent to a British public school, as his military father is posted in Libya (and anti-British sentiment is running pretty high due to the Suez crisis). Alone, 2,000 miles from his beloved mum, he’s given piano lessons by a young woman teacher who engages in wildly inappropriate—sexual—behaviour. A few years later, and another crisis, the Cuban missile crisis, launches Roland on a course of action with this teacher whose repercussions send his life veering very much off course from what it might otherwise have been. And so it goes. Roland drifts, travels, has a “lost decade,” and we join him back in London trying to cope with his seven-month-old son alone after his German wife abandons them—just walks out without notice, leaving a “sorry” note behind. The decades roll by, and Roland continues to experience major events (for instance, he happens to be in Berlin when the wall comes down) until we reach the present day, and Roland is a 70-something chap looking back, considering his life.

I said earlier in this review that Roland’s was an unremarkable life, but I think that’s part of McEwan’s point. We most of us do live quite ordinary lives, don’t we? Though we’re all witnesses to and part of historical disruptions, and perhaps domestic disruptions, that affect and shape our lives. I wasn’t enrapt as I read this book, but I’ve not stopped thinking about it since. It’s subtle and very humane in its effects.

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I really want to love Lessons but unfortunately it hasn't held my attention. I set it aside when I was 15% in as a "not right now" book. I plan to pick it back up at a later time.

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Lessons is the latest from Ian McEwan, famous for Atonement. McEwan's best works, Atonement including, is marked by an aloofness that draws the reader in as a means of getting closer to the characters. This is also true of his less than stellar works, which fail at making the characters intriguing enough to want to get much closer. Lessons unfortunately falls in the latter category. I found it difficult to connect with the characters, and at time a slog to get through. That said, McEwan is incredible at placing his readers in a time and place, and I enjoyed visiting various points in contemporary history.

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One of my all-time favorite books is Atonement so I was thrilled to learn that Ian Ewan had recently published a new book. Lessons - ah hah! There must be something to learn from the literal lessons on the piano. However, that was just the beginning of a life spent learning, a life-long learner as we glibly say. It was not a fast read but I did like it.

It has a Forest Gump feel in that he seems to have experienced all the world’s events, one way or the other, from the Berlin Wall coming down to Covid-19. I wonder how autobiographical this is since the author and Roland Baines are the same age at the conclusion of the book. If you’re looking for another book like William Boyd’s Any Human Heart, this isn’t it

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I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

This is my first experience with Ian McEwan, and this may be the case of not every book appeals to every person.

There were elements of the book I enjoyed. Ronald Barnes an the experiences he had throughout his life were fascinating. While away at boarding school, Ronald is seduced by his piano teacher and enters into a very inappropriate relationship. The impact of that relationship plays a significant role in his entire life. Ironically, many years later, Ronald’s wife leaves him to pursue her writing career and he is left to raise their young son as a solo parent..

As we follow Ronald’s life, we are exposed to the various historical events occurring in the world and see their impact on Ronald. Many of these events were interesting to see in this vein.

I think this was a good novel but the story line contained too many details and I found myself lost/distracted at times.

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This was the first book I've read from this author and I didn't enjoy it as much as I hoped. It was a little hard for me to get involved in the story, and I wasn't a huge fan of the beginning. I'm definitely going to give his other books a try.

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I had some difficulty getting into reading Lessons. However, once I got into the rhythm of the story I settled in and enjoyed the lengthy ride to the end. Roland, the main character, is restless, fearful, abandoned and questioning about himself and his relationships with others and the world. We follow him as he learns things about himself and others around him. Lessons is well written, thought provoking and aptly titled.

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Lessons by Ian McEwan was covered in my Fall Book Preview, where I share a curated list of the season’s hottest new titles including the books I’ve most enjoyed, the ones I’m most looking forward to reading, and the ones the industry is most excited about. This is a story of love and desire that spans time.
Our Fall Book Preview event is exclusively for members of our MMD Book Club community and What Should I Read Next Patreon “Book Lover” supporters. Our communities also received a printable of all the picks with Lessons' publishing info and release date included.

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This book not only shows the characters learning their lessons, it has a few teachings for the reader, as well. The story follows the protagonist, Roland Baines, as he receives a series of harsh life lessons, at the center of each is a woman. There is Miriam, his piano teacher at boarding school, a woman who enters into a manipulative sexual relationship with Roland while he’s still a minor. There is Alissa, the wife who abandons Roland and their seven-month-old child to pursue her writing career. Finally, when a woman, Daphne, comes along with whom he can at last have a healthy relationship with a dependable partner, he has difficulty embracing the relationship because of his earlier experiences. We also witness the intergenerational learning of Alissa, whose mother never made good on her own potential as a writer.

The lessons for the reader are profound. First, after developing an intense and visceral dislike for Alissa because she abandons a baby and seems so oblivious to the suffering her actions have caused (e.g. her husband being suspected of a murder that never happened,) we are reminded that disappearing dads are par for the course; we may think poorly of them, but we rarely have an intense emotional response to such situations. Second, we are offered insight into the “intentional fallacy” – i.e. thinking one knows the author’s intentions and subjective thought processes from what she writes.

I found this to be a powerful story that asks one to confront all manner of intriguing questions. (e.g. If an individual ditches her [or his] family for career, does it make a difference if that person is the best at what she does or if she’s mediocre or if she stinks?) I’d highly recommend this novel for readers of literary fiction.

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The obsessions of a young man did not translate into a readable novel, for me. I'll try again, but the book will archive soon. I'm unable to review it, as I couldn't read it much beyond the first chapter. Sometimes a good writer of literary fiction will chose a perspective that doesn't appeal.

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AUTHOR: Ian McEwan
NARRATOR: Simon McBurney 17h 33m
PUB DATE: 09.13.2022

From the Suez Crisis to the Cuban Missile Crisis, the fall of the Berlin Wall to the current pandemic, Roland Baines sometimes rides with the tide of history, but more often struggles against it.


Wow this book is epic, and a real delight for readers who enjoy a character driven story and historical fiction that spans a lifetime. The story is centered on protagonist Roland whose life is at the heart of the story - from his life as a schoolboy, a husband, a father, and years left alone raising a child on his own. With the backdrop of world events - from the end of the Second World War, to nuclear disasters, and many crisis culminating to the pandemic, the story is a saga to be enjoyed.

Simon McBurney narrates this monumental story giving voice to an ordinary man grappling humanity in the backdrop of extraordinary life events.

This book was simply mesmerizing to me.

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This book is an in-depth look at one man’s life story as it unfolds, along with world historical moments!
The storyline is indeed intriguing and a ‘lesson’ in how our lives can be shaped by the events that happen to us and also around us!
I sometimes became bogged down in the detail given and the connection to the main character Roland, There were moments that Roland had so much that had happened in his life, I wondered if he could delve into how to right the wrongs!
Perhaps Roland has been dealt a disservice by not exploring the possible outcomes of the negative impacts on him?

Thanks to the publisher, NetGalley and the author for the opportunity to read this book.
I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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Initially, I had a hard time with this book. I found it a bit difficult to follow how things were unfolding, the time periods changed rapidly and it did leave me uncertain exactly what was occurring and when. Fortunately, the book found it’s flow and from that point on I became drawn into the character exploration of Roland Baines and his life story. This had a slow build up as it explored the many decades of Roland’s life.

The book covers Roland’s early years as a boy in the 1960’s in the UK. He is taking Piano Lessons from his music teacher. He is just 14 and she is 25. She starts a sexual relationship and at the time Roland sees this as a love affair, although of course it isn’t. It is sexual abuse and she is committing a crime. This continues for two years and changes the course of Roland’s life.

Roland is always searching for the next passionate love affair in his life. He does not seem to feel settled for long. His exposure to sexuality at too young of an age certainly was a big part of this. He never had the time to grow into a relationship and is drawing on experiences that would have a profound effect on a young, physically maturing boy as a young teenager.

He eventually meets Alissa and she seems to be the person for him. She is in Germany at a time when Germany was divided by the Berlin Wall into East and West Germany. He did some writing and work in Germany and had to go back and forth between the border check points. He would sneak in his favorite books and records. This could be dangerous and difficult since one never knew if anything bad could happen. His friends in East Germany feel the same restraints and there is always a feeling of uncertainty.

Roland marries Alissa and thinks his life is on track. He does settle into a beautiful relationship with his young son, Laurance. When the book began Alissa was missing, but no one knows where she has gone. Roland believes she has chosen to leave. He thinks she is likely in Germany. This is a difficult time for Roland as he is always looking to find Alissa and he is raising his young son alone.

I found the background history and the cultural references added much to this story. At the start, there is the frightening aspect of the Suez Crisis, rebuilding after WWII, the Berlin Wall, Mikhaïl Gorbachev and Glasnost, Margaret Thatcher, Chernobyl, and present day Covid. All of these outside factors, and the internal life Roland has lived lead to an engaging story of a man who is fairly detached from himself until later in life. Roland seeks to find solace and meaning through his sexuality, the arts, reading, music, parenthood, and finding love.

Roland finally finds real love. He is an excellent father with a close relationship with his son. It was always hard to accept that his ex-wife Alissa just left and refused to have contact with her son. There are questions raised if the writing is excellent enough, is it worth the sacrifice? What do you hold onto and protect and what must you let go? I was happy for Roland and his son that both seem to find a balance in life and can have joyful connections in life despite all the factors that can work against us.

Thank you NetGalley, Ian McEwan, and Knopf Doubleday Publishing for granting me a copy of this book. I am always happy to leave a review?

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I have always loved Ian McEwan's books, so I when I saw this on Netgalley, I had to read it.
Unfortunately I did not enjoy it as much as I would have liked. To be honest, the first hundred pages I almost gave it a pass.
When Roland Baines was 11 he was sent away to boarding school. He was molested by his female piano teacher.
This shaped the rest of his life through many decades. I found this book rather boring and I found myself disliking nearly all of the characters..Which is sad, as I had high hopes for this book. Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for allowing me to read this book. 3 out of 5.

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Historical Fiction | Adult
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It took me two weeks to complete this latest novel by literary writer and award winner McEwan, considered one of modern Britain’s greatest writers. I hated it. I’m sorry, Mr. McEwan. I adored Saturday and Atonement, but this one was not for me. There are parts I loved, but not enough to overcome my general loathing of this character and his long, slow. painful life. Our protagonist is Roland something or another, and this is his story, pretty much from age 8 (1956) to last year, covering all major political events from the Suez crisis to Chernobyl to the fall of the Berlin Wall to the pandemic. His life is messed up, frankly, largely due to a combination of outside forces (overbearing militaristic father, oppressed mother, and a seriously deranged and abusive piano teacher). Roland can’t commit. Not to a job, not to a partner, not even to a train ride. He tells himself he’s keeping his options open for something better. Meanwhile life is passing him by, as well as every opportunity for a joyful, satisfying life. The historical incidents are a metaphor for opportunity; he is aware of them, kind of in the background, and occasionally steps up to them, but never close and long enough to grasp them. I wanted to like Roland, but he simply drove me nuts. It takes his whole frigging life to figure things out, things most of us figure out decades before. Ugh! Such a frustrating character! And a frustrating read! I tried skimming through parts of it (it’s over 400 pages), but annoyingly, McEwan’s great writing kept distracting me. Told you it was frustrating. The writing is terrific, but the length and the truly unsympathetic character were too much for me. Oh well. My thanks to Knopf Publishing for the digital reading copy provided in exchange for my honest review.
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Masterful! I've had an up and down relationship with Ian McEwan's novels, but this one scales the heights. Although it took me a long time to read (it's chunky!) I didn't begrudge the author a single moment of my time. At once both intimate and epic, Lessons is a book that will stay with me for a very long time.

Roland Baines' long life is laid bare to the reader as he reflects on his loves, his regrets and the events that shaped him. As he's a keen observer of world events, we are able to contrast the individual with the global, and see that - really - Roland's life is pretty small. Apart from a couple of defining episodes of his life involving relationships with women, it's rather ordinary. He watches on as the world changes around him, except for that one time when he's literally in the thick of it - which, when you think about it, is pretty typical for any ordinary person.

I admit it took me a while to warm to dear Roland. With a largely chronological story arc overlaying McEwan's characteristic back-and-forth in the detail, the early chapters focus on Roland's childhood, and I felt a little detached (but still curious) from his concerns and especially his behaviours. But as I got to know him better, and he grew up, I wanted only good things for him, to the point where his steady march into old age produced a little reader anxiety in me. My advice would be to hang in there and give Roland a chance to show you who he's going to become.

This novel has incredible scope and has left me with a strong desire to explore and understand modern history better than I have until now. It's also made me want to go back and fill in some gaps in my reading of this author's work, because what if there are more like this one and Atonement (a firm favourite) waiting for me?

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This was GORGEOUS! I absolutely loved this century spanning work with writing that was an absolute joy to read. The length and breadth of Lessons provides a comprehensive study of how generations process life experiences of trauma and joy. I struggled to put this book down despite heavy topics and learned so much throughout my reading. Not everyone is likable but they are richly described, believable, and true.

I highly recommend McEwan’s latest work if you’re in the mood to amble through a life. The telling is very character driven as we follow Roland Baines and those close to him through a lifetime and beyond. Very reminiscent of many other stories but with a spark and drifting connection that makes the story fresh.

Thank you so much to #netgalley for the ARC and #librofm for the ALC in exchange for an honest review.

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