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First Love, Last Rites [Hardcover]

Ian McEwan
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)

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Book Description

19 Feb 1975
A collection of short stories, focusing on the awakening sensations of first love and its ritual initiations. This collection won the Somerset Maugham Award, and is from the author of THE CEMENT GARDEN, THE COMFORT OF STRANGERS and THE CHILD IN TIME.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Jonathan Cape Ltd; 1st edition (19 Feb 1975)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0224010956
  • ISBN-13: 978-0224010955
  • Product Dimensions: 20 x 13.4 x 2.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,405,765 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


"A talented and genuine imaginative writer. McEwan's details often grow into strange, powerful images - the ironies, throughout this impressive collection, are tellingly weighted" (Julian Barnes)

"A writer of uncanny power" (Time)

"Ian McEwan writes to shock and succeeds... All his stories have a feeling of impending evil - it is a tour de force of concision, and funny, too, in a deadpan manner" (Times Literary Supplement)

"His writing is exact, tender, funny, voluptuous, disturbing" (The Times)

"A brilliant performance" (Observer) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Book Description

'A brilliant performance. There's an assured and terribly macabre depravity about Ian McEwan's short stories - as if some of the characters from early Angus Wilson had been painted by Francis Bacon' Observer --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
64 of 68 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A perfect introduction to a great talent 9 May 2003
By A Customer
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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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Approaching Ian McEwan for the first time, it seemed only natural that I begin with this collection of eight short stories, his first published work. I must say that McEwan leaves quite an impression on the reader. In fact, these stories are quite unlike anything I have ever read. One is hard pressed to determine just how to feel about the stories told here, attempting to integrate shock, sympathy, understanding, depression, ennui, enlightenment, and all manner of other reactions into some sort of vision of enlightenment. The first thing that becomes apparent is McEwan’s boldness and unique vision; he uses some words that never find themselves into the published works of most other writers, but his employment of them seems to be a matter of craft rather than an act of gratuitousness. The very first story, Homemade, is a somewhat disturbing and surreal account of incest, with a lad seeking to understand the type of world his adventurous friend lives in engaging his younger sister in an act of sexual exploration. The story ends quite suddenly, leaving me to interpret the deeper meaning completely on my own. Solid Geometry is sort of the odd duck in this collection, with its theoretical mathematics feel distinguishing it from its counterparts. The story works quite well in describing the protagonist’s uneasy relationship with his wife, but the kicker at the end comes off as just a little too esoteric. Cocker at the Theatre is the most outré (and short) story in the collection; personally, I didn’t get a lot out of it, but it does demand attention.
For the most part, the reader stays on morbid ground. Some have described these tales as having a definite aspect of horror to them, but I would not equate them with horror at all.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Macabre, strange behaviour, reluctant admissions 10 Dec 2010
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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
taking a while to turn up! its been 18 days!
Published 1 month ago by Mara
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Brilliant book - very dark.
Published 2 months ago by W. Osborne
5.0 out of 5 stars Good and Interesting
A good read but as it was recommended thats really why I bought it,but I will buy more of his as it turns out my daughter likes him too...........
Published 3 months ago by Mrs W Waugh
4.0 out of 5 stars Twisted twists
Twisted twists and uncomfortable plots looking at the darker side of human behaviour. Each short story leaves the reader with a sour taste in their mouth - exactly what I think... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Mrs S A Summers
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating introduction to Ian McEwan
This is the first Ian McEwan book I have read. I know that he well known for writing novels rather than short stories, which is what this book contains. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Bacchus
2.0 out of 5 stars Seriously? This?
This book is supposedly a very disturbing collection of short stories which have gained many positive reviews. I for one, cannot see why though. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Asim
5.0 out of 5 stars The master
of the short story. Ian McEwan is an amazing novellist and his earlier short stories are a must read for any of his fans.
Published 19 months ago by A. Bear
3.0 out of 5 stars Just about kept me reading
Stories and writing a bit underdeveloped. I have read almost all IanMcwan's books and this is probably the least enjoyable. Read more
Published 20 months ago by clemi
3.0 out of 5 stars Rough notes for his far better novels
These short stories make up Ian McEwan's first published work. Back in 1975 he was experimenting, as he has said, and trying to find his voice. Read more
Published 21 months ago by Neasa MacErlean
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfection
As usual, McEwan cannot put a foot wrong. Scary and real, there is a little of these characters in each of us
Published 21 months ago by Wendy Mcdonald
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