While the world licks the wounds of World War II and the Iron Curtain descends on Europe, the life of eleven-year-old Roland Baines changes from one end to the other. He is thousands of miles away from his mother's protective love, left to his own devices in a boarding school in AnGalia, and his sensitivity and vulnerability attract the piano teacher Miss Cornell to him. The relationship between them will leave him with scars and memories of love forever.
Roland is reminded of all this when his wife disappears, leaving him alone with his toddler son. Now he is doomed to confront the truths of his restless existence that he has been avoiding all these years. Haunted by misses and opportunities lost never again, he seeks consolation in every possible way - music, literature, friends, sex, politics, and finally love - one tormenting and the other redemptive. The journey he sets out on raises questions of supreme importance to all of us: are we able to navigate the path of our lives with a clear mind without causing harm to others? How do world events beyond our control shape our lives and our memories? And what can we really learn from past traumas?
Lessons, Ian McEwan's most personal novel to date, is a gripping epic work of deep human sensitivity. This is a chronicle of our time - a brave observation of history and its interpretation of humanity from the perspective of a single person.