Ian McEwan, The Gauntlet, and the Nature of Time

From this interview, author Ian McEwan recounts the first time a book truly affected him:

Do you remember the first book that made you cry?

It was “The Gauntlet,” by Ronald Welch. I was 10 years old and in hospital, so I had time to read this wonderful historical novel for children in a day. Its hero, Peter, is transported in a dreamlike state back 600 years to a late medieval Welsh castle. Many adventures and battles and much falconry ensue. When at last Peter returns to the present, the castle is the awesome ruin it was in the opening pages, and all the scenes and the dear friends he has made have vanished. “Their bones must have crumbled into dust in the quiet churchyard of Llanferon.” It was a new idea to me then, time obliterating loved ones and turning them to dust — and I was stricken for a while. But no other novel on the children’s book trolley would do. The next day I read “The Gauntlet” again.

I love this memory–the excitement of the story, the pain of realizing that time must pass, the resulting emotional connection with the book. You can’t give up the first book that rocks your sense of the world.

I also like McEwan’s response to which literary character he’d like to be, so make sure to check out the full interview.

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