Review of the book ‘Leksje’: The big and small of it – The New Indian Express

Express News Service

When a novel is as thick as a brick, procrastination comes naturally. However, when the author is lan McEwan, you will have to go through it. As terrifying as it was, his last novel, Lessonsit is worth the long and tiring ride the author takes his readers on.

The 500-page book has something for everyone – a good love story, a family that’s broken, a woman’s special interest in the field of literature, the wars that shaped the 20th century and more.

Lessons dealing mainly with painful memories, but also dealing with small joys. The title refers to the piano lessons Roland, the protagonist, takes as a child, as well as the life lessons he learns along the way. If Roland had been written by a comedian, he would have been a self-deprecating character who returns too often to the sentiment “happiness is slipping away from me”.

But it’s McEwan who’s handling the pencil here, and his aim is clearly not to make you laugh. However, the greatest gift that Roland possesses is not to let the hands of anxiety take hold of him. Even when it’s down, it’s not out.

Every act, every decision and supporting characters have more than two sides Lessons know that very well. Secrets are selfishly kept, and McEwan slowly unravels them until he hits the ground running with the truth and discovers that Roland’s mother is keeping an important detail about her personal history until her last breath, and his wife, Alissa, is leaving him and their son to become an author.

For men, the boundaries between work and family have always been clear, and they are even praised for neglecting the latter for the sake of a successful career. Women, on the other hand, never had a clear demarcation. It’s inspiring to see how Alissa doesn’t mind becoming a villain in her son’s eyes in order to achieve her ambitions. She wants to be big and is willing to pay the price. Meanwhile, while she bounces from one success to another, Roland’s life remains the same, despite falling in love with another woman.

McEwan glues Lessons to the wall of several unfortunate accidents and political upheavals and builds his characters around them, but the novel truly shines when the narratives are pushed to the margins. In Lucy by the Sea, Elizabeth Strout portrays the chaos surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, the vacuum created by quarantines and the murder of George Floyd with the dexterity of a memoirist. McEwan deals with similar material, but with the apathy of a historian. He appears to be carrying a hook knife to the shooting.

Roland’s relationship with his son and stepchildren is soulful Lessons, along with his ability to forgive those who hurt him. He has nothing against Alyssa and, if we’re being honest, he’s staying
her rising star card. He even persuades his grown son to meet Alissa one day, but his wish is denied. There always seems to be room for love in his heart.

Roland’s (second) marriage to Daphne also deserves long chapters. But soon he loses her to illness and it is treated as another accident that is part of the journey that is life. It’s these moments – big and small – that make the narrative full of sincerity, and the many existential musings that involve swapping lives are excellent.

We imagine that we switch places with others all the time; we covet their wealth (or minds). After all, envy is a cousin of aspiration, and McEwan gets to the heart of the matter perfectly.

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