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Join Ian McEwan for this special event at Southbank Centre as he discusses his mesmerising new novel, Lessons. This epic story is a powerful meditation on history and humanity told through the prism of one man’s lifetime.

Spanning the last seventy years, from the end of the Second World War to the Suez and Cuban Missile Crises, from the fall of the Berlin Wall to the current pandemic and climate change, McEwan’s protagonist, Roland, 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, family, friends, sex, politics, and love.

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? What does parenthood, that 'double helix of labour and love', teach us about ourselves? And what can we really learn from the traumas of the past?

Join Ian McEwan in conversation with Alex Clark as he celebrates publication of Lessons and reflects on his critically acclaimed career. From his early novels to his Booker winning Amsterdam, his number-one bestsellers such as Machines Like Me, and big screen adaptations including Atonement, Enduring Love, The Children Act and On Chesil Beach. Don’t miss your chance to hear from one of our foremost storytellers as he discusses his work and for the first time, Lessons, his most epic book to date.

This event is hosted in partnership with Penguin Live & Southbank Centre.

  • Lessons

  • When the world is still counting the cost of the Second World War and the Iron Curtain has descended, young Roland Baines's life is turned upside down. 2,000 miles from his mother's protective love, stranded at an unusual boarding school, his vulnerability attracts his piano teacher Miriam Cornell, leaving scars as well as a memory of love that will never fade.

    Twenty-five years later Roland's wife mysteriously vanishes, leaving him alone with their baby son. He is forced to confront the reality of his rootless existence. As the radiation from the Chernobyl disaster 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 and Cuban Missile crises, the fall of the Berlin Wall to the Covid 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 - literature, travel, friendship, drugs, sex and politics. A profound love is cut tragically short. Then, in his final years, he finds love again in another form. His journey raises important questions. 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 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 contingency through the prism of one man's lifetime.

  • Buy the book

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