Sunday, June 9, 2024


Author:  Ian McEwan
Publication Information:  Knopf. 2022. 448 pages.
ISBN:  0593535200 / 978-0593535202

Rating:   ★

Book Source:  I received this book through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "This was insomniac memory, not a dream."

Favorite Quote:  "A shame to ruin a good tale by turning it into a lesson. That could be for later."

Ian McEwan is an author who has long been on my to read list. The rave reviews his books receive. The awards he has received. His involvement in issues on a world stage. Recommendations from friends. Lessons is the first of his books I am reading.

Unfortunately, I struggle with the book from its very beginning. The book begins with a boy at boarding school. A teacher, an individual in a position of authority, propositions him. The book then jumps to the boy as an adult, and his wife has abandoned him and their young child.

These two events at the very beginning of the book are shocking, not because such things don't happen. They do. However, they are shocking because there should be an intensity of emotion that accompanies the occurrence of these events, the telling of this story, and, for me, the reading of this story. Yet, for me, there is not. In fact, my reaction is to want to look away. I put down the book and don't pick it up for days. I pick it up and then put it down again. It is a challenge for me to get through.

The book description states, "Epic, mesmerizing, and deeply humane, Lessons is a chronicle for our times—a powerful meditation on history and humanity through the prism of one man's lifetime." The book does indeed cover a lot of history - time and place from the end of World War II to present day. Unfortunately, the main character - the lens through which the history is narrated is not one I find I can relate to. His life and hence the book seems to meander through this history, sometimes with no purpose and no sense of direction. As it meander, many characters - too many - float in and out of the story, making it even more of  a challenge to follow. I do not find myself engaged in the main character's story to want to see how it turns out for I am unsure it even does "turn out" into a cohesive, satisfying conclusion.

Certain books leave a feeling that perhaps the reader is not "clever" enough to follow or understand the depths the author is trying to reach. To me, that is not a fault of the book but an indication that I am not the reader for the book. Perhaps, I will try a different book by the author. Perhaps not. This one was not for me.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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