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

3.7 out of 5 stars 34 customer reviews

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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 1.3 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 76,606 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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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

Top Customer Reviews

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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Format: Paperback
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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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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