From his first published work, 1975’s Somerset Maugham Award-winning short story collection First Love, Last Rites, to his acclaimed novels, including the likes of Atonement, On Chesil Beach and 1998’s Man Booker Prize-winning Amsterdam, Ian McEwan’s stories have captured the imaginations of readers and critics worldwide. His numerous accolades – Whitbread Novel of the Year (The Child in Time), National Book Critics’ Circle Fiction Award and Los Angeles Times Prize for Fiction (Atonement), numerous Man Booker Prize short-listings and a CBE – speak of a lifetime dedicated to his craft.
Almost 40 years into his career, The Washington Post labelled McEwan’s 2014 addition to his oeuvre, The Children Act: ‘A svelte novel as crisp and spotless as a priest’s collar… Another notable volume from one of the finest writers alive.’ And his 2016 release, Nutshell – a classic story of murder and deceit, told by a narrator with a perspective and voice unlike any in recent literature – demonstrates an unyielding desire to push beyond the known extremities of literature. Affecting, inimitable and unforgettable, McEwan’s works should be savoured and absorbed. Here is a rough guide to just some of many of his high-watermarks to-date.
First Love, Last Rites (1975)
Forty years on from first publication, these stories display McEwan’s dazzling early talent. Taut, brooding and densely atmospheric, they are stories of sex and loneliness, adolescence and incest, love and murder, and they linger in the mind long after they are finished.
The Cement Garden (1978)
McEwan’s debut novel, adapted into a 1993 film starring Charlotte Gainsbourg. In the relentless summer heat, four abruptly orphaned children retreat into a shadowy, isolated world, and find their own strange and unsettling ways of fending for themselves...
The Child in Time (1987)
Stephen Lewis takes his three-year-old daughter on a routine Saturday morning trip to the supermarket. While waiting in line, his attention is distracted and his daughter is kidnapped. Just like that. From there, Lewis spirals into bereavement that has effects on his relationship with his wife, his psyche and time itself.
On a chilly February day two old friends meet in the throng outside a crematorium to pay their last respects to mutual ex-lover Molly Lane. In the days that follow Molly’s funeral these friends make a pact, which leads to their making disastrous moral decisions, testing their friendship to its limits…
Adapted into a 2007 BAFTA and Academy Award-nominated film, starring Saoirse Ronan, James McAvoy and Keira Knightley, at release the Observer labelled Atonement: ‘The best thing [McEwan] has ever written’. On the hottest day of the summer of 1934, thirteen- year-old Briony Tallis sees her sister Cecilia strip off her clothes and plunge into the fountain in the garden of their country house. Also watching is childhood friend Robbie Turner. By the end of that day, the lives of all three will have been changed forever.
Henry Perowne is a contented man. Unusually, he wakes before dawn, drawn to the window of his bedroom and filled with a growing unease. What troubles him as he looks out at the night sky is the state of the world. What unfolds is a day like no other.
On Chesil Beach (2007)
At its heart, On Chesil Beach is a story about how the entire course of a life can be changed by a gesture not made or a word not spoken. In a hotel on the Dorset coast, newlyweds Edward and Florence are sitting down to dinner in their room. Neither is entirely able to suppress their anxieties about the wedding night to come…
The Children Act (2014)
Fiona Maye, a leading High Court judge, visits a seventeen-year-old boy in hospital who is refusing the medical treatment that could save his life. It is Fiona who must ultimately decide whether he lives or dies, and her judgement will have momentous consequences for them both.
Trudy has betrayed her husband, John. She’s still in the marital home, but not with John. 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 remarkable take on a classic tale of murder and deceit.
The fortieth anniversary edition of McEwan’s first published work, now with an introduction from the author
'A superb achievement: his prose has instant, lucid beauty and his narrative voice has a perfect poise and certainty. His account of deprivation and survival is marvellously sure, and the imaginative alignment of his story is exactly right' - Tom Paulin
'Spooky - wonderful' Observer
WINNER OF THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE 'Easily his most enjoyable book - McEwan writes here with unobtrusive panache' David Profumo, Daily Telegraph
'The best thing he has ever written' Observer
The bestselling novel by one of Britain's finest writers now in paperback.
A short novel of quite remarkable depth, power and poignancy by a writer at the height of his powers
Ian McEwan's brilliant, emotionally wrenching novel, now a major film starring Emma Thompson and Stanley Tucci
A classic tale of murder and deceit from one of the world’s master storytellers – ‘a masterpiece’ The Times
With every word, sentence, paragraph perfectly poised, these books are made to be savoured.