Five of the best Ian McEwan novels

Novelist Ian McEwan. PHOTO: Nick Butcher

Novelist Ian McEwan. PHOTO: Nick Butcher - Credit: Archant © 2009

Yesterday was award-winning novelist Ian McEwan's 70th birthday. Here's a list of some of the UEA graduate's best works to date.

1. Atonement

Atonement is an emotive 2011 novel which centres on a young girl's tragic mistake and her lifelong desire for personal redemption. While Atonement is not a war novel, the Second World War is integral to the plot and splits the narrative between the character's youth and their complicated and tangled adult fates.

Atonement won, among other accolades, the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction and was named in the New York Times 10 best books of the year list. It was made into a film in 2007 and won multiple awards including a BAFTA Award for Best Film and a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture.

MORE: Little literature festival to feature Costa Prize winning author2. Enduring Love

In his 1997 novel Enduring Love McEwan explores the psyche of a man who has witnessed an extraordinary and tragic twist of fate while out on a countryside picnic with his girlfriend. The novel takes some compelling and enigmatic twists and turns as one of the other witnesses to this event becomes obsessed with the protagonist.

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The film adaptation of Enduring Love, staring James Bond actor Daniel Craig, was released in 2004. Craig won the London Film Critics Circle Award fir British Actor of the Year for his role.

3. On Chesil Beach

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McEwan published his novella On Chesil Beach in 2007. It's a brief but devastating book that spins on the pin head of the disastrous first night between a newly wed couple. The plot is set in the early 1960s and the relationship between the two central characters is fraught with middle-class miscommunication and repression of feelings.

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4. The Child in Time

The Child in Time is early McEwan. Published in 1987, it won the prestigious Whitbread Novel Award for that year. The plot centres on a father who loses his very young daughter in a shop and is relentlessly haunted by the event for years to come. The book deals with the stark human experience of loss threaded through with the protagonist's twisty metaphysical theories.

The Child in Time was adapted for the BBC in 2017. It starred Benedict Cumberbatch.

5. Amsterdam

Perhaps the most opinion splitting of McEwan's work, Amsterdam is also one of his most acclaimed novels, having won the Booker Prize in 1998 (the year of its release). The novel revolves around two male friends living separate and privileged lives who are ultimately united by a euthanasia pact. It has been described as a morality fable of sorts and, unlike many of McEwan's other successful books, has not yet been adapted for film or television.

What is your favourite book by Ian McEwan? Let us know in the comments below.

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