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Ian McEwan. Show caption Ian McEwan. Photograph: Leonardo Cendamo/Getty Images
Ian McEwan

The Booker prize-winning author’s new novel Lessons is ‘a powerful meditation on history and humanity told through the prism of one man’s lifetime’

Wed 19 Jan 2022 12.00 GMT

Ian McEwan’s “most epic book to date”, moving from the end of the second world war to the current pandemic and exploring the impact of childhood trauma, will be published this autumn.

The Booker prize-winning author of Amsterdam, Atonement, and most recently Brexit satire The Cockroach, will release his new novel Lessons this September. McEwan’s publisher Jonathan Cape described it as “a powerful meditation on history and humanity told through the prism of one man’s lifetime”.

It follows protagonist Roland Baines from his time at an “unusual” boarding school at the age of 11, when his vulnerability attracts piano teacher Miss Miriam Cornell, to the disappearance of his wife, leaving him to care for his young son alone. Parenthood, as McEwan explores it in the book, is a “double helix of labour and love”. Cape said the novel sees the author explore what can be learned from the traumas of the past, what parenthood can teach us about ourselves, and how global events “shape our lives and memories”.

“Haunted by lost opportunities, [Roland] seeks solace through every possible means – music, literature, family, friends, sex, politics and love,” said Cape.

Publishing director Michal Shavit, who acquired the novel, called it “not only [McEwan’s] most epic book to date”, but also “one of, if not, his finest”.

“A universal story of love, acceptance and sacrifice, longing, desire and of harm in childhood and its long term impact,” she said. “Set against the most amazing backdrop of world defining events, this is the story of an extraordinary century and an ordinary man grappling with all that it is to be human.”

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