Ian McEwan

First Love, Last Rites was McEwan's first published book and is a collection of short stories that in 1976 won the Somerset Maugham Award. A second volume of his work appeared in 1978. These stories--claustrophobic tales of childhood, deviant sexuality and disjointed family life--were remarkable for their formal experimentation and controlled narrative voice. McEwan's first novel, The Cement Garden (1978), is the story of four orphaned children living alone after the death of both parents. To avoid being taken into custody, they bury their mother in the cement of the basement and attempt to carry on life as normally as possible. Soon, an incestuous relationship develops between the two oldest children as they seek to emulate their parents roles. The Cement Garden was followed by The Comfort of Strangers (1981), set in Venice, a tale of fantasy, violence, and obsession. The Child in Time (1987) won the Whitbread Novel Award and marked a new confidence in McEwan's writing. The story revolves around the devastating effects of the loss of a child through child abduction. Readers may know McEwan's work through these and other books, or more recently through his novel, Atonement, which was made into a major motion picture.

Featured Books By Author

In Between the Sheets

Whether these are the written transcripts of dreams or deadly accurate maps of the tremor zones of our psyche, all seven stories in this collection implicate us in the most fearful ways imaginable. In one, a two-timing pornographer becomes the unwilling object in the fantasies of one of his victims. In another, a jaded millionaire buys himself the perfect mistress and plunges into a hell of jealousy and despair. In another, over the course of a weekend, a guilt-ridden father with his teenage daughter discovers the depths of his own blundering innocence.

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The Comfort of Strangers

Colin and Mary are lovers on holiday in Italy, their relationship becoming increasingly problematic as they become increasingly alienated from one and other. They move from place to place in this foreign land but seemingly without aim or purpose and more, seemingly bored and without attachment.

Then they meet a man named Robert and his wife, Caroline, who is crippled. Colin and Mary seem happy for the diversion--happy to meet another couple that takes the focus of off them (off of each other) for a while. Things become strange (and stranger yet; one could say horrific) when they attempt to leave: Robert and Caroline insist that they stay with them for a while longer.

While Mary and Colin indeed rediscover each other in ways during this time--an erotic attraction to each other that was below the surface--they also find that their relationship/friendship with Robert and Caroline takes turns that are likewise erotic and violent in nature. A pervasive dread runs through this novel, leading to the terrible climax that no reader could predict. Absolutely in the key of McEwan, without match in the genre, and a very worthwhile read.

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The Child in Time

Now a PBS Masterpiece movie starring Benedict Cumberbatch.

The Child in Time shows us just how quickly life can change in an instant. Stephen Lewis is a successful author of children’s books. It is a routine Saturday morning and while on a trip to the supermarket, Stephen gets distracted. Within moments, his daughter is kidnapped and his life is forever changed.

From that moment, Lewis spirals into bereavement that has effects on his relationship with his wife, his psyche, and with time itself: "It was a wonder there could be so much movement, so much purpose, all the time. He himself had none."

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Books By
Ian McEwan