An epic tour de force that takes in the key political events of the postwar world, Lessons finds the masterful McEwan addressing the interconnectedness of personal motivation and the merciless onrush of the tide of history.
When the world was still counting the cost of the Second World War and the Iron Curtain had closed, young Roland Baines’s life was turned upside down. 2,000 miles from his mother’s protective love, stranded at an unusual boarding school, his vulnerability attracted piano teacher Miss Miriam Cornell, leaving scars as well as a memory of love that will never fade.
Now, when his wife vanishes, leaving him alone with his tiny son, Roland is forced to confront the reality of his restless existence. As the radiation from Chernobyl spreads across Europe, he begins a search for answers that looks deep into his family history and will last for the rest of his life.
From the Suez Crisis to the Cuban Missile Crisis, the fall of the Berlin Wall to the current pandemic and climate change, Roland sometimes rides with the tide of history, but more often struggles against it. Haunted by lost opportunities, he seeks solace through every possible means – music, literature, friends, sex, politics and, finally, love cut tragically short, then love ultimately redeemed. His journey raises important questions for us all. Can we take full charge of the course of our lives without damage to others? How do global events beyond our control shape our lives and our memories? And what can we really learn from the traumas of the past?
Epic, mesmerising 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.