Books Written by Ian McEwan

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Books

Nutshell by Ian McEwan

NUTSHELL

Trudy has betrayed her husband, John. She's still in the marital home -- a dilapidated, priceless London townhouse -- but John's not here. Instead, she's with his brother, the profoundly banal Claude, and the two of them have a plan. But there is a witness to their plot: the inquisitive, nine-month-old resident of Trudy's womb.

Told from a perspective unlike any other, Nutshell is a classic tale of murder and deceit from one of the world's master storytellers.

To be bound in a nutshell, see the world in two inches of ivory, in a grain of sand. Why not, when all of literature, all of art, of human endeavour, is just a speck in the universe of possible things.

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The Children Act by Ian McEwan

The Children Act

'Religions, moral systems, her own included, were like peaks in a dense mountain range seen from a great distance, none obviously higher, more important, truer than another. What was to judge?' – The Children Act

 

Fiona Maye is a leading High Court judge, presiding over cases in the family court. She is renowned for her fierce intelligence, exactitude and sensitivity. But her professional success belies private sorrow and domestic strife. There is the lingering regret of her childlessness, and now, her marriage of thirty years is in crisis. At the same time, she is called on to try an urgent case: for religious reasons, a beautiful seventeen-year-old boy, Adam, is refusing the medical treatment that could save his life, and his devout parents share his wishes. Time is running out. Should the secular court overrule sincerely held faith? In the course of reaching a decision Fiona visits Adam in hospital - an encounter which stirs long-buried feelings in her and powerful new emotions in the boy. Her judgment has momentous consequences for them both.

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Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan

Sweet Tooth

'But no one over 30 could understand this peculiarly weighted and condensed time, from late teens to early 20s, a stretch of life that needed a name, from school leaver to salaried professional, with a university and affairs and death and choices in between. I had forgotten how recent my childhood was, how long and inescapable it once seemed. How grown-up and how unchanged I was.' – Sweet Tooth 

Serena Frome, the beautiful daughter of an Anglican bishop, has a brief affair with an older man during her final year at Cambridge, and finds herself being groomed for the intelligence service. The year is 1972. Britain, confronting economic disaster, is being torn apart by industrial unrest and terrorism and faces its fifth state of emergency. The Cold War has entered a moribund phase, but the fight goes on, especially in the cultural sphere. Serena, a compulsive reader of novels, is sent on a secret mission codenamed Sweet Tooth, which brings her into the literary world of Tom Haley, a promising young writer. First she loves his stories, then she begins to love the man. Can she maintain the fiction of her undercover life? And who is inventing whom? To answer these questions, Serena must abandon the first rule of espionage - trust no one.

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Solar by Ian McEwan

Solar

'Being late was a special kind of modern suffering, with blended elements of rising tension, self-blame, self-pity, misanthropy and a yearning for what could not be had outside theoretical physics – time reversal. And commanding yourself to be stoical did not get you there any sooner.' – Solar 

Michael Beard is in his late fifties; bald, overweight, unprepossessing – a Nobel prize-winning physicist whose best work is behind him. Trading on his reputation, he speaks for enormous fees, lends his name to the letterheads of renowned scientific institutions and half-heartedly heads a government-backed initiative tackling global warming. An inveterate philanderer, Beard finds his fifth marriage floundering. When Beard’s professional and personal worlds are entwined in a freak accident, an opportunity presents itself, a chance for Beard to extricate himself from his marital mess, reinvigorate his career and very possibly save the world from environmental disaster.

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For You (Libretto) by Ian McEwan

For You (Libretto)

'I loved blues and rock-n-roll and jazz. I also listened to a lot of classical music. Music swept through me.' – Ian McEwan in interview with David Remnick 

Charles Frieth, preeminent composer, conductor and prodigious womaniser, is preparing for a performance of one of his early works, and the world premiere of "Demonic Aubade". Obstinate and myopic, he is oblivious to the growing turmoil around him; his wife's poor health and dissatisfaction; the exhausted efforts of his secretary; and, the disquieting diligence of his housekeeper, Maria. As the first performance draws near, the maestro is suddenly awoken to the chaos, and as Charles struggles to regain control of his life, a terrible tragedy begins to unfold. "For You" is a beautifully wrought and compelling libretto - It is Ian McEwan at his very best.

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On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan

On Chesil Beach

'This is how the entire course of a life can be changed – by doing nothing.' – On Chesil Beach 

Their marriage, they believe, will bring them happiness, the confidence and the freedom to fulfill their true destinies. The glowing promise of the future, however, cannot totally mask their worries about the wedding night. Edward, who has had little experience with women, frets about his sexual prowess. Florence’s anxieties run deeper: she is overcome by conflicting emotions and a fear of the moment she will surrender herself.


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Saturday by Ian McEwan

Saturday

'For the past two hours he's been in a dream of absorption that had dissolved all sense of time, and all awareness of the other parts of his life. Even his awareness of his own existence has vanished. He's been delivered into a pure present, free of the weight of the past or any anxieties about the future.' – Saturday 

Saturday is a novel set within a single day -- 15 February 2003. Henry Perowne is a contented man - a successful neurosurgeon, happily married to a newspaper lawyer, and enjoying good relations with his children, who are young adults. What troubles him is the state of the world - the impending war against Iraq, and a general darkening and gathering pessimism since the New York and Washington attacks two years before. On this particular Saturday morning, Perowne makes his way to his usual squash game with his anaesthetist, trying to avoid the hundreds of thousand of marchers filling the streets of London, protesting against the war. A minor accident in his car brings him into a confrontation with a small-time thug called Baxter. To Perowne's professional eye, something appears to be profoundly wrong with this young man. Baxter, in his turn, believes the surgeon has humiliated him, and visits the opulent Perowne home that evening, during a family reunion - with savage consequences that will lead Henry Perowne to deploy all his skills to keep this doomed figure alive.

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Atonement by Ian McEwan

Atonement

'It wasn't only wickedness and scheming that made people unhappy, it was confusion and misunderstanding; above all, it was the failure to grasp the simple truth that other people are as real as you.' – Atonement 

On the hottest day of the summer of 1935, thirteen-year-old Briony Tallis sees her older sister Cecilia strip off her clothes and plunge into the fountain in the garden of their country house. Watching Cecilia is their housekeeper’s son Robbie Turner, a childhood friend who, along with Briony’s sister, has recently graduated from Cambridge. By the end of that day the lives of all three will have been changed forever. Robbie and Cecilia will have crossed a boundary they had never before dared to approach and will have become victims of the younger girl’s scheming imagination. And Briony will have committed a dreadful crime, the guilt for which will color her entire life.

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Amsterdam by Ian McEwan

Amsterdam

'Sometimes Clive worked so hard on a piece that he could lose sight of his ultimate purpose – to create this pleasure at once so sensual and abstract, to translate into vibrating air this non-language whose meanings were forever just beyond reach, suspended tantalisingly at a point where emotion and intellect fused.' – Amsterdam 

On a chilly February day, two old friends meet in the throng outside a London crematorium to pay their last respects to Molly Lane. Both Clive Linley and Vernon Halliday had been Molly’s lovers in the days before they reached their current eminence: Clive is Britain’s most successful modern composer, and Vernon is editor of the newspaper The Judge. Gorgeous, feisty Molly had other lovers, too, notably Julian Garmony, Foreign Secretary, a notorious right-winger tipped to be the next prime minister. In the days that follow Molly’s funeral, Clive and Vernon will make a pact with consequences that neither could have foreseen.

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Enduring Love by Ian McEwan

Enduring Love

'My love for you is hard and fierce, it won't take no for an answer, and it's moving steadily towards you, coming to claim you and deliver you.' – Enduring Love 

On a windy spring day in the Chilterns, the calm, organized life of science writer Joe Rose is shattered when he witnesses a tragic accident: a hot-air balloon with a boy trapped in its basket is being tossed by the wind, and in the attempt to save the child, a man is killed. A stranger named Jed Parry joins Rose in helping to bring the balloon to safety. But unknown to Rose, something passes between Parry and himself on that day–something that gives birth to an obsession in Parry so powerful that it will test the limits of Rose’s beloved rationalism, threaten the love of his wife, Clarissa, and drive him to the brink of murder and madness. Brilliant and compassionate, this is a novel of love, faith, and suspense, and of how life can change in an instant.

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The Daydreamer by Ian McEwan

The Daydreamer

'If life was a dream, then dying must be the moment when you woke up. It was so simple it must be true. You died, the dream was over, you woke up. That's what people meant when they talked about going to heaven. It was like waking up.' – The Daydreamer 

In these seven exquisitely interlinked episodes, the grown-up protagonist Peter Fortune reveals the secret journeys, metamorphoses, and adventures of his childhood. Living somewhere between dream and reality, Peter experiences fantastical transformations: he swaps bodies with the wise old family cat; exchanges existences with a cranky infant; encounters a very bad doll who has come to life and is out for revenge; and rummages through a kitchen drawer filled with useless objects to discover some not-so-useless cream that actually makes people vanish. Finally, he wakes up as an eleven-year-old inside a grown-up body and embarks on the truly fantastic adventure of falling in love.

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Black Dogs by Ian McEwan

Black Dogs

'Behind all our frustration over all these years has been the wish to get back to those happy days. Once we began to see the world differently we could feel time running out on us and we were impatient with each other. Every disagreement was an interruption of what we knew was possible – and soon there was only interruption. And in the end time did run out, but the memories are still there, accusing us, and we still can't let each other alone.' – Black Dogs 

Set in late 1980s Europe at the time of the fall of the Berlin Wall, Black Dogs is the intimate story of the crumbling of a marriage, as witnessed by an outsider. Jeremy is the son-in-law of Bernard and June Tremaine, whose union and estrangement began almost simultaneously. Seeking to comprehend how their deep love could be defeated by ideological differences Bernard and June cannot reconcile, Jeremy undertakes writing June’s memoirs, only to be led back again and again to one terrifying encouner forty years earlier–a moment that, for June, was as devastating and irreversible in its consequences as the changes sweeping Europe in Jeremy’s own time. In a finely crafted, compelling examination of evil and grace, Ian McEwan weaves the sinister reality of civiliation’s darkest moods–its black dogs–with the tensions that both create love and destroy it.

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The Innocent by Ian McEwan

The Innocent

'So exhaustively suspenseful that it should be devoured at one sitting. ... McEwan fuses a spy-novel plot with themes as venerable as the myth of Adam and Eve.' – Newsweek 

Leonard Marnham is assigned to a British-American surveillance team in Cold War Berlin. His intelligence work—tunneling under a Russian communications center to tap the phone lines to Moscow—offers him a welcome opportunity to begin shedding his own unwanted innocence, even if he is only a bit player in a grim international comedy of errors. Leonard’s relationship with Maria Eckdorf, an enigmatic and beautiful West Berliner, likewise promises to loosen the bonds of his ordinary life. But the promise turns to horror in the course of one terrible evening—a night when Leonard Marnham learns just how much of his innocence he’s willing to shed.

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The Ploughman's Lunch by Ian McEwan

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The Child in Time by Ian McEwan

The Child in Time

'For children, childhood is timeless. It's always the present. Everything is in the present tense. Of course they have memories. Of course time shifts a little for them and Christmas comes round in the end. But they don't feel it. Today is what they feel, and when they say "When I grow up..." there's always an edge of disbelief – how could they ever be other than what they are?' – The Child in Time 

Stephen Lewis, a successful writer of children’s books, is confronted with the unthinkable: his only child, three-year-old Kate, is snatched from him in a supermarket. In one horrifying moment that replays itself over the years that follow, Stephen realizes his daughter is gone.With extraordinary tenderness and insight, Booker Prize–winning author Ian McEwan takes us into the dark territory of a marriage devastated by the loss of a child. Kate’s absence sets Stephen and his wife, Julie, on diverging paths as they each struggle with a grief that only seems to intensify with the passage of time.

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The Ploughman's Lunch by Ian McEwan

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Or Shall We Die? by Ian McEwan

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The Imitation Game by Ian McEwan

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The Comfort of Strangers by Ian McEwan

The Comfort of Strangers

'It was mid-summer, and the city overflowed with visitors. Colin and Mary set out each morning after breakfast with their money, sunglasses and maps, and joined the crowds who swarmed across the canal bridges and down every narrow street.' – The Comfort of Strangers 

On vacation in a city that may or may not be Venice, Mary and Colin are growing weary of each other, lost among the city's ancient, endlessly winding streets. Then one night, on their way to a late dinner, they meet a stranger named Robert. Forceful, insistent, perhaps too forthcoming, Robert leads them through the city—and away from their ordinary lives forever. Writing with psychological precision and a mesmerizing tone of inevitability, McEwan creates a classic tale of suspense and erotic menace.

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The Cement Garden by Ian McEwan

The Cement Garden

'"Girls can wear jeans and cut their hair short and wear shirts and boots because it's okay to be a boy, for girls it's like promotion. But for a boy to look like a girl is degrading, according to you, because secretly you believe that being a girl is degrading."' – The Cement Garden 

First the father dies, then the mother. Four children are left alone in a house that looks like a castle stranded among grim high-rises. Free of supervision, free of restraint, they can do and be anything, as long as the house's secret is kept.

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In Between the Sheets by Ian McEwan

In Between the Sheets

'But soon I loved her completely and wished to possess her, own her, absorb her, eat her. I wanted her in my arms and in my bed, I longed that she should open her legs to me. I could not rest till I was between her pale thighs, till my tongue had prised those lips.' – In Between the Sheets 

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

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First Love, Last Rites by Ian McEwan

First Love, Last Rites

'Ian McEwan’s fictional world combin[es] the bleak, dreamlike quality of de Chirico’s city-scapes with the strange eroticism of canvases by Balthus. Menace lies crouched between the lines of his neat, angular prose, and weird, grisly things occur in his books with nearly casual aplomb.' – The New York Times 

Ian McEwan’s Somerset Maugham Award-winning collection First Love, Last Rites brought him instant recognition as one of the most influential voices writing in England today. Taut, brooding, and densely atmospheric, these stories show us the ways in which murder can arise out of boredom, perversity can result from adolescent curiosity, and sheer evil might be the solution to unbearable loneliness. These tales are as horrifying as anything written by Clive Barker or Stephen King, but they are crafted with a lyricism and intensity that compel us to confront our secret kinship with the horrifying.

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