Roland Baines, born in 1948 whose life is described over a period of 70 years, seems a promising boy, but doesn’t live up to this promise. Fate plays an important part in this. He doesn’t finish school. After various odd jobs, during which he appears to be a gifted piano player, he marries British-German Alissa. But she leaves him and their seven-month-old son to pursue a career in writing. Roland raises his son single-handedly. Later on he meets his wife again in East Berlin, just before the fall of the Berlin Wall. Over a period of half a century Roland builds his own walls and crashes into others he doesn’t want to crash into. Other historic events, such as the troubles in the Middle East in the 1950s, the Cuban missile crisis and the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, also figure in the background of this book. Lessons describes the life of a baby-boomer who, in despair, watches his life go by. McEwan states that his novel is partly autobiographical.