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First Love, Last Rites: Stories Paperback – January 13, 1994

3.8 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews
Book 4 of 5 in the Ian McEwan Series

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"McEwan [has] a powerful talent that is both weird and wonderful." --Boston Sunday Globe

"Ian McEwan's fictional world combin[es] the bleak, dreamlike quality of de Chirico's city-scapes with the strange eroticism of canvases by Balthus. Menace lies crouched between the lines of his neat, angular prose, and weird, grisly things occur in his books with nearly casual aplomb." --The New York Times

"McEwan is a splendid magician of fear." --Village Voice Literary Supplement

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Ian McEwan's Somerset Maugham Award-winning collection First Love, Last Rites brought him instant recognition as one of the most influential voices writing in England today. Taut, brooding, and densely atmospheric, these stories show us the ways in which murder can arise out of boredom, perversity can result from adolescent curiosity, and sheer evil might be the solution to unbearable loneliness. These tales are as horrifying as anything written by Clive Barker or Stephen King, but they are crafted with a lyricism and intensity that compel us to confront our secret kinship with the horrifying.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 165 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Books; Reissue edition (January 13, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679750193
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679750192
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #305,716 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I would begin my review by saying that if you are going to begin a journey into the wonderful world of McEwan, don't begin here. Then I would say that he is one of my favorite writers, EVER. He is incredibly good, but I am afraid that none of these eight stories really resonated with me. I would say that they don't represent how well he can write. If you began here, you might assume that McEwan is somewhat fixated with sexual rites of passage themes, when really he isn't.

From a pickled penis, in the first story; to childhood incestuous rape, in the second; to a third story (perhaps the best of all) with the least amount of sexual innuendo; to the fourth, depicting uncontrollable on-stage public sexual intercourse; to the fifth, sexually motivated murder; to the sixth, about a masturbatory recluse; to the seventh, the "art" of which, eluded me almost entirely; to the eighth, involving what I consider child abuse brought on by a self-obsessed, cross-dressing caregiver.

Are the stories written well? Hell yes.

McEwan is exquisite (present tense) and this book (1975) proves that "exquisiteness" is not just a recent development with him. It is the subject matter that I find objectionable. And not so much in an "immoral" sense as much as in an "unappealing" sense. In these stories he is dealing with such grotesque imagery, that I find it difficult to find these particular stories applicable. For the most part, they are about the kind of stuff that even the newspapers omit from their most disturbing back pages.

Maybe I don't want to look that close.
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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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By A Customer on September 12, 2003
Format: Paperback
"First Love, Last Rites (FLLR)" is Ian McEwan's first short story collection and while I love virtually every novel he has written so far - "Enduring Love", "Black Dogs" and "Atonement" are truly modern classics - FLLR is very early McEwan, showing promise but lacking the assured confidence of his later works. In this Somerset Maugham Award winning book, McEwan displays all the qualities that have come to characterise his style. Unafraid to break taboos or upset social conventions, he forces the boundaries of acceptability and occasionally goes for the jugular when he employs shock tactics to awaken our natural instinct for the dark and the macabre that lies dormant beneath our consciousness.
The opening vignette "Solid Geometry" is fascinating sci-fi-cum-horror fare. I couldn't help stifling a chuckle at the inventive way in which the protagonist finally "got rid" of his wife. "Homemade" about the awakening of a boy's sexuality via the only means available to him is another winner, both terrifying and funny. "Butterflies" and "Conversations With A Cupboard Man" are more conventional stories about loners and the devastating effect of repression. "Last Day Of Summer" is a gentle reminder that "still waters run deep" with grotesques. I don't think I got the essence of "Cocker At The Theatre" though it seems to be about sexuality and control and how they don't mix. The last two stories are to me the weakest in the collection. The title story seems tame and listless, ie, it goes nowhere, while the closing vignette "Disguises" is too befuddling to make any sense of. Is the aunt just mad or is she a closet cross dresser and a dominatrix in her little mad house ? Too much of a mindbender for me.
"First Love, Last Rites" is a qualified success. The highs are truly excellent but be prepared for a couple of disappointments.
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