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First Love, Last Rites: 40th Anniversary Edition Paperback – Special Edition, 5 Jun 1997

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Product details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; 40th Anniversary edition (5 Jun. 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099754819
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099754817
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.4 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 6,140 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Ian McEwan is a critically acclaimed author of short stories and novels for adults, as well as The Daydreamer, a children's novel illustrated by Anthony Browne. His first published work, a collection of short stories, First Love, Last Rites, won the Somerset Maugham Award. His novels include The Child in Time, which won the 1987 Whitbread Novel of the Year Award, The Cement Garden, Enduring Love, Amsterdam, which won the 1998 Booker Prize, Atonement, Saturday and On Chesil Beach.

Product Description


"Marks the debut of a talented and genuinely imaginative writer" (Julian Barnes New Statesman)

"As promising a first collection of stories as I have ever come across" (Vogue)

"Ian McEwan writes to shock and succeeds... It is a tour-de-force of concision, and funny, too, in a deadpan manner" (Gabriele Annan Times Literary Supplement)

"And now for a brand new writer of formidable talent, Ian McEwan who is 27. His stories First Love, Last Rites…are the most devastating debut I have seen for a long time" (Peter Lewis Daily Mail)

"A brilliant debut by the most promising writer around" (A. Alvarez Observer Books of the Year)

Book Description

The fortieth anniversary edition of McEwan’s first published work, now with an introduction from the author

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Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

66 of 70 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 9 May 2003
Format: Paperback
I will try to be brief, but it won't be easy.
This was McEwan's first foray into print after attending the now famous Creative Writing course at UEA under the tutelage of Malcolm Bradbury.
This was an outstanding first collection for any writer and created plenty of waves when it first appeared in 1975. I personally remember the compulsion I felt and the sheer shock I experienced when I read it in 1980. "First Love, Last Rites" really was a milestone in short fiction, and the quality of the writing and its originality certainly stood out at the time.
Much of the subject matter is gruesome ("Homemade" and "Butterflies" to name but two) but the characterisation never falters and you believe in the narrators absolutely. Tellingly, perhaps, all but two of the stories are told in the first person, and they are done so convincingly and with plenty of panache.
However, the real gem of this collection, and the reason I still re-read it, is to be found in the second story.
"Solid Geometry" created quite a stir at the time as the BBC dramatisation of this eerie tale was banned before it even made it into production. What a shame that we had to wait until last year for such a marvellous tale to make it onto the small screen.
"Solid Geometry" is worth the price of this collection, alone. This is a dark, almost supernatural, tale that evokes everything that is great in the classic English Short Story tradition. It harks back to a past that still casts a shadow over the present, and has a grotesque quality all of its own. The first sentence is probably one of the most arresting of any short story of the twentieth century. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that "Solid Geometry" is probably one of the finest short stories ever written, comparable even with D.H. Lawrence's "The Rocking Horse Winner".
If you haven't read McEwan this is a perfect place to start. If you have read him, buy it for "Solid Geometry" alone. You will want to enjoy it again and again.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Philip Spires on 10 Dec. 2010
Format: Paperback
Having read much of Ian McEwan's later work in the last few years, I was intrigued to chance upon a copy of First Love, Last Rites, a set of his short stories published in 1975. I read The Cement Garden and The Comfort Of Strangers just after their publication, but I have not picked up any early McEwan since then. First Love, Last Rites proved to be an eye-opening read, not least because hindsight offers real clues as to how Ian McEwan has developed as a writer.

The stories in this set vary from Disguises which, at around 20,000 words, might even be a novella, to Cocker At The Theatre which is definitely a short story. What characterises all of these tales, however, is that they focus on characters whose behaviour or personal culture might be seen as towards the minority end of taste. I use the word minority to indicate that only a few people would admit to such proclivities, not that they might comprise only a small element of generality. It was this concentration on arguably the freakish that allowed the nickname Ian Macabre to stick.

In First Love, Last Rites, for instance, we have a touch of incest, sexual intercourse on stage, not a little child abuse seasoned with transvestism, an episode of boiling in oil, childhood games that grow prematurely adult, rats scratching at the skirts and more. I am reminded of the photographs of Diane Arbus from roughly the same period. It seemed that wherever she pointed her camera, no matter how potentially mundane the shot might appear, there would be evidence of sadomasochism, bestiality, paedophilia, even meat-eating.

It was this mix of what was understood as marginal mixed with the manifestly prosaic that caught the attention in the photographs and rendered them so disturbing.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Simon Savidge Reads on 28 Mar. 2012
Format: Paperback
I am not generally a prudish person. I might not like the odd swear word in a book if it jars or seems out of character, but I don't believe reading should always be comfortable and in fact some literature needs to be confronting to address certain issues. Odd then that, a favourite author of mine too, Ian McEwan's debut collection of short stories `First Love, Last Rites' has left me feeling rather conflicted, I read it all with a feeling that I really shouldn't continue on and yet I did.

`First Love, Last Rites' is a murky collection of tales. The subject matter in these short stories will disturb and quite possibly offend the most hardened or open minded of us. Here we have a mixture of titillating tales of naked posing, masturbation and dressing up, but we also have a much darker selection based on incest, rape, child abduction, possible murder and abuse. With the lighter few of these stories like `Cocker at the Theatre' (think Mrs Henderson Present's but a bit filthier and made me guffaw) I read in a rather teenage giggly way. However the darker stories really divided me.

I have read many book in which horrific things are depicted, be they from incest to the horrors of war, and have found the occasional graphic nature of them to be appropriate and justified rather than offensive, uncomfortable yes but not without reason. With `First Love, Last Rites' I couldn't really work out if these darker tales needed to be told (odd I know seeing as I think McEwan's `The Cement Garden' is a fantastic if horrific novella) and if so how graphically.
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