Naomi Alderman's The Lessons reflects the truth that the lessons life teaches often come too late.
Hidden away in an Oxford backstreet is a crumbling Georgian mansion, unknown to any but the few who possess keys to its unassuming front gate. Its owner is the mercurial, charismatic Mark Winters, whose rackety trust-fund upbringing has left him as troubled and unpredictable as he is wildly promiscuous.
Mark gathers around him an impressionable group of students: glamorous Emmanuella, who always has a new boyfriend in tow; Franny and Simon, best friends and occasional lovers; musician Jess, whose calm exterior hides passionate depths. And James, already damaged by Oxford and looking for a group to belong to.
For a time they live in a charmed world of learning and parties and love affairs. But university is no grounding for adult life, and when, years later, tragedy strikes, they are entirely unprepared.
Naomi Alderman grew up in the Orthodox Jewish community in Northwest London. Her first novel, Disobedience, was published in 10 languages and won the Orange Award for New Writers and the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year prize. Like her second novel, The Lessons, it was broadcast as Radio 4's Book at Bedtime. She is a frequent radio broadcaster, and she is a regular contributor to several publications, including the Guardian and Prospect. She lives in London.
Naomi Alderman was born in London and brought up in the Orthodox Jewish community in Hendon where she still lives. She is a graduate of the UEA Creative Writing Course.